By Gabrielle Kennedy
Former Design Academy Eindhoven student Marcin Rusak was nominated by Man and Well-Being department head Ilse Crawford as a Rising Talent at this year’s Maison & Objet in Paris.
What’s most refreshing is that the nomination was nepotism-free. Ilse didn’t know Marcin, had never taught him or met him before making her announcement.
The DAE experience was a very unexpected one for Marcin. “I thought I was coming to learn industrial design,” he says, “but what I found was a totally different and conceptual approach. Being there changed my whole perception of what design even is.”
Via classes in meditation, performance, drawing, presentation as well as experimenting with all different kinds of materials, shapes and concepts, Marcin delved deeply into what it meant to be a conceptual designer.
“It was stressful and very intense at the academy,” he says, “but also one of the best times I ever had in education. The amount of knowledge and experience I gained from just being there all day every day… I never got that anywhere else.”
And DAE’s fabric is still knitted deep into Marcin’s path. After leaving the academy he enrolled at the RCA where he was coached by alumni Philippe Malouin and Sarah van Gameren of Studio Glithero - relationships that endure to this day.
As a Maison & Objet Rising Talent , Marcin was offered a mentorship from Ilse. “The thing about graduating from a design education is that you don’t really know that much about running a business,” he says. “Nobody tells you the basics of running a practice, or establishing a process, where to show, where not to show. All the things you learn through the process of having a studio, which also means running a business – PR, photography, production, sales, a website. That is what I’d like help from her on.”
And more generally the idea of mentorship is something he finds valuable. “In the end everyone I have worked with I started by going to them for advice,” he says “It goes from advice, to a project, to friendship. And of course mentoring can be sensitive. You have to be respectful of a mentor’s territory and I usually try not to move into projects that would be treading on their toes. I think that is also something I probably learnt at the academy. We worked a lot in groups and everyone is so generous and open with their ideas. I think you work out early how to stay inspired without copying.
“But copying for me wouldn’t really be an issue anyway,” he continues. “Almost everything I do is autobiographical or has at least has some sort of personal reference point.”
For the work he showed this year at Maison & Objet Marcin looked back one hundred years into his own family. “We grew flowers, sold them and owned stores,” he says. “I was raised in the middle of it, the glass houses and post-industrial landscape of the flower business… but there were no more flowers.”
It was while working on a different project at RCA that he came across an object that looked familiar from his past. “It was an old polished cabinet from the 16th century carved with motifs from the seasons and nature,” he says. “I went to the flower markets to research some of what I was looking at, but I ended up finding something very different. Waste. I couldn’t believe how much waste was there.”
Marcin started collecting as much waste as he could carry home. He experimented with making tools, materials and shapes. “I took my ideas in a full circle through my family history,” he says.
Then he moved onto the idea of using aging materials. “I like the idea of appreciating change rather than immediately seeing it as a negative. I also want to be able to witness the change in a material and to value that evolution.”
This led to the idea of injecting a flower with bacteria and then setting it in resin. The bacteria eats up the flower and then light can be used to fill the voids.
“It is really about the material, but I was trained at Design Academy so my natural inkling is to develop those into objects,” he says.
And being a DAE graduate there is also a critical take. “What has become of the flower industry isn’t normal,” he says. “Everything is so engineered and artificial, but the fragrance is gone because the flowers need to travel and its scent is a flower’s most energy-consuming characteristic.”
Find out more about Marcin Rusak at http://www.marcinrusak.com/