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    Object experience: Eugenie Kawabata on her exhibition for Melbourne Design Week

    Stephanie McDonald

    Eugenie Kawabata is a Melbourne designer, maker and artist based at the Abbotsford Convent.

    Kawabata is currently involved in Departures, an exhibition of new works, with Marc Pascal, Yan Huang and Ilan El for Melbourne Design Week, being run by the National Gallery of Victoria. 

    Architecture and Design spoke to her about exploring how design can shape a person’s experience of object culture, surrounding herself with objects that will endure and blurring the lines between art and design.

    Can you tell A&D about Departures?

    Departures is a design exhibition exploring the relationship between nature, old traditions and new futures. The exhibition is an installation of handmade objects set within the context of a transit lounge.

    Departures is a collaborative exhibition of new works by Melbourne based designer makers, Eugenie Kawabata, Marc Pascal, Yan Huang and Ilan El. Sound designer Duane Morrison and photographer/video designer Adrian Lander will create the mood through sound and the moving image.

    As curator of Departures, my intention was to bring together designers who explore the internal language of objects through light, colour, texture, form and presence, and whose work transcends the boundary between art and design.

    What are you hoping to achieve?

    Departures aims to explore ways in which design can shape one’s experience of object culture. It links the desire to connect with our natural environment, with the traditions of making and the practice of tactility to new and future possibilities. To put ideas within the context of a constructed environment, the transit lounge, Departures seeks to find a new awareness of its impact on urban life and culture

    How did the idea for it come about?

    Last year I curated a group show Elemental that explored the language of materiality and the ways in which materials express emotions, tell stories and build personality in the forms that occupy our lives. Departures builds on this notion, but takes it a step further by creating an environment that suggests a departure from the individual form to the collective installation of form – to suggest the possibilities of how this narrative can make an emotional impact.

    How has design shaped your experience of object culture?

    I have always been drawn to objects that express narratives. Design for me has to go beyond functionality. It needs to resonate with me in a spiritual way, to evoke a sensory and aesthetic response. Design should uplift my experience of object culture and make me feel. I like to surround myself with designed objects that will endure and that I am likely to develop an emotional connection to.

    How often do you think designers incorporate nature into their work?

    I think designers are the observers and critical consumers of culture and nature. On some level, they have always incorporated an element of nature into their work.

    Historically, nature’s inherent beauty has inspired us. We consume and also seek ways to conquer its impossible hugeness. It informs us of a natural order and offers the counter point to what is humanly possible.

    Making sustainable designs is important to you. How does this translate in your work?

    My design seeks to blur the line between art and design, while embracing an ethos of sustainability.

    My products are all handmade in Melbourne and I’ve developed a signature process of using recycled glass and resin that is hand cast and incorporated into my Fold, Stack and Flocked collections. The process used ensures each piece is unique. I am committed to reimagining materials to create timeless and enduring sustainable solutions – something people will cherish and enjoy every day.

    What is one object that has had a significant impact on you?

    My stove top espresso maker which is currently a ‘Pulcina' designed by Michele De Lucchi for Alessi. It makes a great coffee, is practical and functional and there is something quite endearing about the little chick-like-beak spout. It makes me smile and is the kick start to my day.

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