Job Smeets of Studio Job on durability and design: “Nobody would throw away an 800kg bronze cabinet”
Job Smeets, co-founder and art director at Belgian firm Studio Job, said that the work they produce is “very durable”.
The design studio is known for its whimsical and icon-based bronze sculptural designs, represented by Carpenter’s Workshop Gallery and which have been displayed at numerous museums around the world, including the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
“Everybody is talking about durability these days and being careful with nature. In a way we are very durable at Studio Job. We make things that will last hundreds of years. Nobody would throw away an 800 kilograms bronze cabinet. The whole discussion about durability is already a commercial discussion and is used commercially to sell more stuff,” Smeets explained.
He also added that Studio Job’s way of creating design “changed the design market”.
“For bronze sculptures it’s not important that it should be functional,” he explained. “It’s a unique piece so it fits its purpose. I think with Studio Job we introduced the idea of sculpture as design that made us well known but that also changed the design market, because 20 years ago there wasn’t a design art fair. And now other brands see it and want a piece of it. It becomes a business model.”
Studio Job’s pieces were removed from international exhibitions and art and design fairs due to cultural sensitives surrounding some of the works.
“That’s good- it becomes part of the conversation. That might be the function of these kinds of pieces, they create a reaction. There is always censorship in art, and in some way it’s good when these things happen. It makes design more like art if it can be censored,” he said.
Contrary to what some may think, Smeets assured that his aim is not to shock people with his pieces but to stretch possibilities.
“If you want to stretch a field, you need to pull the strings,” Smeets clarified.
Smeets was in Dubai for the launch of Studio Job’s latest collaboration with Italian wall and flooring company, Mirage, for whom the Smeets and co-founder Nynke Tynagel created a ceramic tile collection called Pop Job.
He explained that he sees Studio Job’s signature bronze sculptures and its commercial extension “in the same way”.
“We started from with bronze sculptures. We never started with commercial work because 10 years ago, I saw all the designers who finished academies, the first thing they would do would be to go to IKEA to get a job or they would go and lay in front of the door at Magis to get a contract for a chair. And I thought that’s not the way to go, everybody does it.
“I was more interested in the sculpture of design, or the more ‘haute couture’ side of design and I thought, if you can start from the top level you can always spread out more. But if you start from a product, it’s very hard to reach the top level. I just turned the whole model around. It’s obviously not for everyone but for us, it works.”
He added: “When you are a really young designer and you work for a company then you are asked to design something that fits in the catalogue of the company but when you already have a strong identity, then when a company approaches you, then you can design something that is purely Studio Job and they can make that as part of their identity. That’s much more interesting.”
Smeets also insisted on the idea that design should not only be about industrial production but can be about unique pieces.
“Fame: it doesn’t really mean anything but sometimes you can use it for greater creativity and that’s what I like to do,” he said.
“For me, the most important thing is that the field of design becomes more and more creative and more and more interesting.”