A celebration of concrete! A very dry subject...
However, it deserves our attention and praise, as concrete is one of the most widely used materials in existence. Behind only water, as the planet's most consumed resource it has supplied us with incredible architecture, works of art and engineering feats that only get stronger as the material ages. Moulded into giant forms built to withstand earthquakes down to small decorative items it has to be one of the most versatile materials on the planet.
Famous architects who championed the use of the material, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer to name but a few, inspired generations of young designers and engineers to experiment with concrete across many diverse parts of everyday life. Sculpting, casting and moulding artistic and practical shapes and forms paying tribute to modern architecture with the very essence of modern building in water, earth and sand.
This love of architecture is a common thread shared between two designers (perhaps more artists than designers) whose products we sell on our Makers & Merchants website. Frédérick Gautier and Marie Michielssen are not interested in following concrete trends, each have a unique way of using this brutal material called concrete to create inspiring products, textures and forms. Moulded into desirable functional objects to be used or displayed in your homes and gardens, they both create unusual products and are unusual themselves, in many ways…
For each project Frédérick Gautier moves his studio to a different location, where he incorporates the inspiration from the architecture from his immediate surroundings into the everyday objects that he creates. He spends months working on a story or technique making sure there is carefully considered inspiration behind every object.
Building on elementary shapes such as cylinders, columns, cubes, cones and discs, this most brutal, cold and stark material is not the first thing that springs to mind when thinking of afternoon tea, a fine British tradition, but for Frédérick Gautier’s FCK Teapot 2, Teapot 4 and Teapot 5 it works perfectly. Creatively challenging the traditional shape of a teapot into a concrete sculptural centrepiece, a talking point for any cream tea. The products combine a strong textured exterior with a beautifully smooth glazed interior and a pouring spout moulded to perfection.
This form of concrete tableware made using cement is now Frédérick Gautier’s speciality. His interest in Brutalism led him to work more specifically in concrete with his designs emphasising the texture and imperfections of the material, many without any form of embellishment. He does stress though that it is mainly the simplicity of the object that appeals “Although I am immensely interested in Brutalism, I am not charmed by really brutal objects. I am mainly looking for simplicity and functionality.”
FCK, if anyone was wondering, in construction jargon is the shorthand for the characteristic compressive strength of concrete. An apt name for his range whose work in concrete has become his trademark.
Marie Michielssen also favours its raw texture, rough or smooth finish and a material that can be moulded into her simple shapes and forms. Also inspired by shape, Marie plays around with cones, cylinders, cubes and spheres. Slicing through their pure form and reimagining them into new structures, creating pots, planters and vases that wouldn’t look out of place in an art gallery.
Her ranges Concrete, Seventies & Tab all have a more commercial approach to her designs but with no less artistic origins. Her hands on approach to ‘drawing’ in 3 dimensions with papier mâché and with inspiration pulled from an artistic lilt rather than a purely commercial objective, bring simple shapes with rough and smooth textures to life with floral decorations that range from a single flower to an incredible floral profusion.