Images courtesy of Olivia Decaris© | Img. 1 Olivia portrait | Img. 2 Illustration ‘Spaghetti House’ for Essen | Img. 3-4 ‘Pouch’ malleable carafe | Img. 5 ‘Social Drop’ | Img. 6 ‘Line Levels’ wine decanter | Img. 7-8 ‘Bulby’ and ‘Topsy’ – Plump series | Img. 9 Illustration ‘Changing room’ | Img. 10 ‘Resto’ | Img. 11 ‘Ottolenghi’.
From Paris to East London. Olivia Decaris is parisienne, but Industrial Design lead her to the other side of the channel. Graduated from Design Products at the Royal College of Art in 2009, Olivia is now working in her studio and in 2010 founded, together with Hina Thibaud, the studio DUHO. She loves staring at the clouds, transforming her memories and ideas into illustrations. Through her objects, she searches for intimacy and protection from the outside world.
Important warning: contents and illustrations of this interview may cause beneficial effects to your psychological state. Read it carefully.
Hi Olivia, I’d like to know more about you and your personal history: French-born but London-based. What’s French and what’s becoming more and more English in you?
I still like foie gras, saucisson and wine; I still dislike beans, pudding and beer. London is creative, Paris is beautiful. I brought in UK my taste for beauty and refinement. I also came with my grumpy Parisian mood that has apparently been eased by the congenial nature of London. London has this real energy that is sometimes missing in my own city. I can say I became more inventive on the other side of the channel where variety, movement and eccentricity are dominating.
Which came first, Industrial Design or Illustration?
I have always been painting and drawing. But I believe that my drawings became illustrations while I started designing objects. They were born together, evolved together and both reveal the way I see the world.
Let’s start with your design activity. Taking a close look at your whole work, it seems like your objects express a need for security and withdrawal from the outside world. They have an inner feeling of comfort, softness and calm. Even the human body is often rolled up in a relaxed and protected position. It’s like as if design could take us back to a pre-birth state, don’t you think so?
We live in a society where people feel increasingly insecure: we are scared of violence, contagion, sicknesses, crowds, traffic… But we also fear the lack of intimacy caused by the development of communication, the Media’s prominence and the expansion of social networks. I believe they are more and more designs offering the users a feeling of safety in response to these fears. Cocoons, bubbles and capsule devices, referring to the fetus, are developing and contributing to a feeling of protection and wellness.
Another leitmotiv of your projects is that materials seem to live in a zero-gravity dimension, where forms are often suspended and weightless. Is that a food for thought in your works?
I am not really down to earth… apparently. That is probably the reason why I need to suspend the things I design in order to feel in the same universe. I am interested in weightlessness and immateriality and unconsciously try to create another dimension where objects levitate.
Your ‘Pouch’ Malleable Carafe is born through a rotation (of the liquid silicon rubber) and ends up in a crystalizedfall. It’s just amazing, tell me more about its production technique…
The research started at the Royal College, during my master of arts. At the time, I was exploring the concept of expansion and was searching for new ways of serving beverages. The project went through different steps, such as investigating existing typologies, looking for fluid systems, researching the primitive feeding processes like suckling or milking… During the mock up process I used elastic materials such as latex and rubber; I filled up balloons and condoms with water and really pushed the experiments and drawings until the final Pouch. Actually Pouch is like a recipe: there is dough, a mold and a machine where it is hardening like a cake that can be further perfected.
After Pouch, the original bottles from the Plump series, the gravity issue comes again into your horizontal decanter ‘Line Levels’. If we think that a “decanter” should let the wine “settle down”, your suspended decanter is doing exactly the opposite thing… It’s rather a paradox! Isn’t it?
When we designed the project, we actually found inspiration in the principle of the Separation Funnel, a glassware piece used in laboratories to separate the components of a mixture. Line level decanter is suspended and plays with the law of gravity. Gravity is not an issue, but stimulates decantation. There is a game of balance and a cavity in the center where the wine separates from its dreg and ventilates.
Drop Series: your cocoon creates a really poetic atmosphere, gathering people around the table and protecting sounds, words and light, which are the heart of intimacy. Could you describe some imaginary diningencapsulated situations? What could they eat?
I have created the Drop series through scenarios. I still imagine two lovers being able to go to the restaurant without fear, spared from the look of others. They could smoke cigars and put their own music, share a bottle of Pessac-Léognan and play cards, eat what they like and as much as they want: they will not be judged and perceived as gluttons as nobody sees them. Sofia Loren and Mina could enjoy having a quiet dinner together under the Drop and devour an Osso- Bucco, peacefully, without being annoyed by the Medias or the fans. They could have serious conversations about their success and enjoy uninterrupted shots of Grappa. They could also cry, but that’s ok: Social Drop is a comforting space, some kind of confessional.
As a designer, is there an element that you find “perfectly designed” by the most creative designer of all times… Mother Nature?
I love clouds… they are weightless, immaterial, pure, creative, changing. I can spend hours staring at the sky, interpreting their shape and watching them moving and transforming.
Let’s talk about your illustrations: missed flights, women’s changing rooms, broken glasses. Are they fragments of your everyday moments in London?
Yes, most of them are illustrating some clumsy moments of my life in London. I am obviously inspired by cartoons, especially the ones of Tex Avery within each situation is impressively caricatured. My illustrations were stimulated by the discovery of London. The world has changed since I am in UK and I had to express it in some way. This atmosphere makes me do things I would never do in France, such as carrying the social Drop of 2/2meters during two kilometers in the street or moving out my whole apartment by foot through Brick Lane. People are amazingly mixed up and it seems to me so fresh that I have to reproduce and remember what I have seen: that’s also why I love sketching the Londoner crowd.
Is there an illustration linked to a particular anectode that you can tell us?
I can tell you about the illustration I made for Essen . I am always enjoying staring at people at the restaurant. I like listening to their conversation and watching them eating. And I know it is impolite… I have caricatured the London population eating spaghettis. I believe it is an art to eat these long sticks with style, don’t you think?
The illustrated situations are always very ironic and funny. The characters are often clumsy and they end up bungling what they’re doing. How much of autobiographical is in there?
It is 100% autobiographic.
What do you like to drink, eat and cook?
As a good Frenchy I am a wine lover, crazy about cheese and meat. But I am curious and love discovering new restaurants and new tastes. I cook a lot: I have to say that being in London actually had a positive impact on my taste buds. As it is such a melting pot of nationalities, I am cooking more and more Asian (Thai, Vietnamese), Moroccan and .. French of course..
What are your favorite dishes?
Curry Panang, Rosmary Leg of Lamb and lemon pie
Can you recommend us some food addresses?
In London, I would recommend the cosy Thai restaurant Rosa’s, where the Panang Curry and the fresh spring rolls are amazing. 12 Hanbury Street, E1 6QR
I also love going to the Viet canteen Song Que, Shoreditch, for a Bo bun, 134 Kingsland Road, E2 8DY.
Bacchus is great, in Hoxton, for a nice glass of wine and an Angus burger in a romantic atmosphere. 177 Hoxton Street, N1 6PJ. And if you stroll around Angel station, you have to pop by Ottolenghi, where food is beautiful: lunch from the counter and hot food from the kitchen are served to share in mezze size portions. 287 Upper Street, N1 2TZ
Can you give us a recipe?
I inherited different origins. My grandmother was Egyptian and she taught me how to make Menenas, little oriental biscuits. The recipe is coming from the heart, as I am not completely sure about the precise doses… she was not the kind of person who was using a scale to measure the quantity of ingredients.
Menenas, oriental biscuits
10 dates, 150g butter, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 cups of flour, a little bit of orange zests
1. Chop the dates fine. You can use a food processor, it is modern and practical… but do not forget to remove the seeds first. Mix the orange zests and the dates together.
2. Mix butter, flour and sugar in food processor or by hand. Mixture should be soft but not sticky.
3. Roll pieces of dough into little balls of 2cm diam, hollowing out as you go to make room for the filling. Stuff each with a little of date/orange mixture. Close the ball with fingers and shape it round. Flatten tops of each with a fork.
4. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, 300 degrees. Allow to cool before burning your mouth.