meet the makers | Dec 2, 2021 |
This Dutch art collective reimagines mundane objects as radical designs
This Dutch art collective reimagines mundane objects as radical designs
Rotganzen’s Erik Schilp, Robin Stam and Joeri Horstink (sitting on Bouncy) at work on a Quelle Fête piece. Their Straw light sculptures are in the background.Courtesy of Rotganzen

While some decor pieces serve a functional purpose, others are designed to tell a story. Such is the case with Rotganzen, a Netherlands-based art collective that transforms everyday items into eye-catching objects with a distinct point of view. “We work in the tradition of the pop art and Italian radical design movements of the 1970s,” says Erik Schilp, the studio’s co-founder. “We find our inspiration in ordinary objects and daily life, often relating our work to childhood memories or disappearing experiences.”

Rotganzen was conceived in 2009 by two of the collective’s three members, graphic designer and artist Robin Stam and interior designer Joeri Horstink. Schilp, a museum curator and collector, joined two years later, after collaborating with the duo on a project for work. “All of us have been experimenting with design since childhood—always trying to make stuff more attractive by tweaking its appearance or by giving it new meaning,” explains Schilp. “That obsession brought us together as friends, and then as a collective and studio.”

The trio apply three fundamental principles to every item: “First, there should be a recognizable connection to an object from everyday life,” Schilp says. “Second, there should be one radical twist in either form or function; and third, the materials and techniques we use must be of the highest possible quality.”

This Dutch art collective reimagines mundane objects as radical designs
Quintessential III by RotganzenCourtesy of Rotganzen

One of Rotganzen’s first—and most recognizable—collections, a series of handcrafted melting disco balls called Quelle Fête, offers an excellent case in point. Inspired by the great nightclubs of the 1970s, the mirrored sculptures evoke the carefree spirit of the disco era while telling a sobering story about the dark side of nightlife. “It’s a reflection on those wild and relatively uncomplicated days when the sky seemed the limit,” says Schilp. “We imagined the iconic disco ball as a person, tired and drunk at the end of a heavy night of clubbing, alone at the bar.”

Rotganzen’s furniture designs are equally tied to specific human moments and experiences. Take, for example, Bouncy—a colorful, coiled chair that pays tribute to childhood memories on playground spring rockers—or the Quintessential collection, a series of wooden ladders covered in hand-splattered paint that double as side tables and storage shelves. “Quintessential comes from a short story we wrote about a house painter whose life is captured in that one object, ” Schilp says. “It’s an homage to craftspeople, and to the craft of the artist, which requires so much more than creativity alone.”

This Dutch art collective reimagines mundane objects as radical designs
Clockwise from top: LA Woman, Tiffany Queen, Tiny Dancer and Cracked Actor by Rotganzen for Kelly WearstlerTrevor Tondro

In October, Rotganzen unveiled an exclusive Quelle Fête series commissioned by Kelly Wearstler. One of the melted disco balls, Tiny Dancer, sold out so quickly that the studio will be releasing another limited-edition small-scale mirrored design that will be available for presale on Wearstler’s site in January. “When Kelly asked us to develop an exclusive series, we wanted to honor the most important aspect of club life: the music,” Schilp says. “We chose to be inspired by music about Los Angeles, not just because Kelly is based there, but also because besides New York, it is the only other U.S. city that oozes possibility and draws people from all over the world like moths to a flame.”

More recently, Rotganzen released Straw, a series of dimmable tube-shaped LED light sculptures that are hand-painted with a single stripe to mimic old-school plastic drinking straws. The collective is currently working on an upcoming exhibit for Design/Miami Basel 2022, where they plan to debut a handful of new furniture designs. “In 10 years, we would like to have established our own gallery, where we can team up with other designers that work in a similar fashion,” Schilp says. “All three of us have different ambitions, but we have agreed to work towards them together.”

To learn more about Rotganzen, visit their website or follow them on Instagram.

Homepage photo: From left: Cracked Actor, Tiny Dancer, LA Woman, Tiffany Queen and Sunset People by Rotganzen for Kelly Wearstler | Trevor Tondro

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