Maison et Objet describes Pierre Charpin as “an explorer at heart” – but the French designer, who graduated from Bourges Art School in 1984, is so much more than that. A “designer’s designer” in the truest sense of the expression, Charpin is unfazed by the world and committed to practising his craft. Oh, and he is a lover of bright colours – used just to the right degree, of course.
Charpin has collaborated with some of the greats of the design world: Alessi, Hermès, Ligne Roset and Hay. He also created Vases Triplo, which was selected for a Golden Compass – awards which are given for creations made in Italy. The awards, established in Lombardy in 1954 by the designer du jour Gio Ponti and since 1964 entrusted to the Associazione per il Disegno Industriale (ADI), are considered among the most prestigious in the world.
Then there are the tumblers, vases and a jug,“Intervalle”, he designed for Saint-Louis (the oldest crystal manufactory in France) in 2011. Don’t forget that some of his creations can be seen in the collections of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris.
With the Maison et Objet’s announcement that he is their Designer of the Year, Charpin’s creativity is likely to be in greater demand than ever before.
“I am inspired by all things and people that stimulate my curiosity and my spirit, not [by anything or anyone] in particular,” Charpin says. “I also think that it is important that my inspiration evolves and changes with time.”
Charpin traces much of his inventiveness and creativity back to his upbringing on the outskirts of Paris within an artistic family.
“Both of my parents were artists and of course this has had an influence on me,” Charpin says. “From my childhood I was surrounded by people who produced shapes, people who were very committed to what they were doing. And the very fact of having chosen design instead of becoming an artist was also a sort of reaction – more or less unconscious – not to be exactly like my parents; a way to find my own autonomy.”
Charpin was born to a Spanish mother and a French father, and is now married to an Italian. He says he feels more European than French, and adds, “My vision of the world is not only influenced by France.”
Charpin also teaches: previously at the Graduate School of Art and Design of Reims; and since 2008, periodically at the ECAL in Lausanne, Switzerland. Despite his close ties to academia – he studied art – Charpin’s approach to design has been mostly self taught.
According to Clémence and Didier Krzentowski, the founders and owners of Galerie kreo in Paris, who have worked with Charpin for more than 16 years, “His designs are very pure without being severe, the pieces directly follow his truly skilful drawings which make the shapes soft and smooth. He loves working with a variety of materials, from glass to ceramics and marble. He also has a masterful command of colour, reminiscent of the Italian design icons whose work he has always admired, including Ettore Sottsass and Alessandro Mendini, with whom he created the all’aperto collection for the gallery.”
As part of aretrospective titled “Extracts” – organised to coincide with the Maison et Objet trade fair – the Galerie kreo will show pieces spanning the period of Charpin’s cooperation with the gallery from 1999 to 2016.
As much as Charpin appreciates the recognition, it’s never going to change the way he works – or thinks, for that matter. “I always did what I thought I had to do and not what I thought needed to be done,” Charpin says. “Recognition is a non-negligible moment that must be confronted with humility. It is a moment of sharing, sharing of sensibility. But it is also not always an easy time to manage because it [involves being] subjected more intensely to the gaze and the judgment of the others.”
So it is that with awards and acclaim comes a responsibility that needs to be factored into the way one lives one’s life. But like Charpin says, he’ll just keep working. “I really enjoy drawing. My creative process is drawing-based,” he says. “I think [through] drawing, and my thoughts come to me by drawing. Whether it’s hand drawing or computer drawing, there is a long process of development that involves transforming an intuition into an intention. Drawing gradually allows [me] to define a shape, its proportions. I also [enjoy working]with my two assistants.”
When asked what he is focused on, Charpin says, “I am working on a ceramic collection for the brand 1616 / Arita Japan, and a decorated tiles collection for the Italian brand Ceramiche Piemme. Also, I have designed the future medal of the Schneider Electric Paris Marathon which will take part in April [this year].”
It seems like another busy year is in store for the designer who opened his studio almost 30 years ago. As with all great creative minds, there is always something else over the horizon.
When asked what else he’d like to do, Charpin replies, “I would very much like to create a theatre scenography. It is something that seems really exciting to me.”
For some, there is always something else marvellous to create in this uncertain, turbulent world.
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