Germans Ermičs

Germans Ermičs

Our second guest is Germans Ermičs, an international designer based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, who has created limited edition pieces as well as commissioned work for Instagram and Bang&Olufsen, among others. We first met at Milan Design Week in 2017, when we both exhibited our work at Rossana Orlandi Gallery and became friends. That year he exhibited the Ombré Glass Chair, a tribute to Shiro Kuramata's Glass Chair, which received significant media attention, and which led him to being shortlisted as Next Generation Designer of the Year 2017 by Wallpaper* Design Awards. As we are of the same generation, we are continuously inspired by his works created through his own initiative and drive.

第2回目のゲストはオランダ・アムステルダムを拠点にグローバルに活躍するデザイナーゲルマンズ・エルミッチ(Germans Ermičs)。リミテッドエディションの作品を発表する一方で、InstagramやBang&Olufsenといった企業のコミッションワークも手がける。Germansと初めて会ったのは2017年のMilan Design Week。ともにRossana Orlandi Galleryにて作品を展示していたことがきっかけで仲良くなった。Germansはその年、倉俣史朗さんのGlass ChairのオマージュであるOmbré Glass Chairを出展し、多くのメディアで話題に。その年のWallpaper* Design AwardsのNext Generation Designer of the Yearのショートリストにも選出された。we+の2人とは同世代ということもあり、彼の取り組みにはいつも刺激をもらっている。

Germans Ermičs
A Latvian designer based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, who wields light, space, and color to catalyze a shift in how we perceive objects. For the past few years, he has crafted refined and ethereal pieces of glass furniture. Because of the utilitarian functions of glass, we rarely take close notice of it, as we encounter it daily. But in Ermičs’s designs, glass becomes the stage for exquisite color treatments. It can be soft and frosted to blur the edges of form; ombré, to gently draw your eye across the surface; or mirrored, to reflect and manipulate the space you occupy.

Photo: Jussi Puikkonen

Photo: Jussi Puikkonen

Germans meets contemporary design


ToshiyaFirst of all, please introduce yourself briefly.


GermansI studied interior and furniture design at the Design Academy Eindhoven, a university in the Netherlands, but before that I interned with the Danish designer Rasmus Koch and then worked as a graphic designer with a friend, creating magazines. Because of this background, I think my specialty is to think in two dimensions and realize it in three dimensions. After graduating, I worked for an interior design company for three years and saved up money to set up my own studio in the winter of 2014. Having been independent for almost six years now, I sell my work through Rossana Orlandi Gallery in Milan and other design galleries. I also collaborate with interior designers and architects on spaces and interior design, including the Instagram pavilion, Alchemist, a design shop in Miami, Raf Simons' space in London's Dover Street Market and the interior design of Bang & Olufsen. In parallel with these activities, I also research materials. I think this is a common practice in the world of collectible design, but I mainly work in these three fields.

ゲルマンズオランダの大学Design Academy Eindhovenで、インテリア・家具のデザインを学んだのですが、その前は、デンマークのデザイナーRasmus Kochの元でインターンをし、その後、友人と一緒に雑誌をつくるなどグラフィックデザイナーとして活動していました。そんな背景もあり、2次元的に思考して、3次元で実現することが私の持ち味だと思います。卒業後の3年間はインテリアデザイン会社で働き、お金を貯めて、2014年の冬に自分のスタジオを立ち上げました。独立してまもなく6年になります。現在はミラノのRossana Orlandi Galleryや他のデザインギャラリーを通して、自身の作品を販売しています。また、インテリアデザイナーや建築家と協業して、空間やインテリアデザインを手掛けることもあります。InstagramのパビリオンやマイアミのデザインショップAlchemist、ロンドンのDover Street MarketにあるRaf Simonsの空間、Bang & Olufsenのインテリアデザインなどにこれまで携わってきました。そういった活動と並行して素材のリサーチも行っています。コレクティブルデザインの世界では一般的だと思うのですが、主にこれら3つのフィールドを軸に活動しています。

Instagram x Germans Ermičs, WTRE, Cannes Lions (2019)
Photo: Filips Šmits
Instagram x Germans Ermičs, WTRE, Cannes Lions (2019)
Photo: Filips Šmits

HokutoYour work is characterized by the use of beautiful colored glass, can you tell us about your turning point as a designer?


GermansI presented a collection called Shaping Colour, utilizing colored glass, at the Dutch Invertuals exhibition during Milan Design Week in 2015. It is a work that can be described as somewhere between two-dimensional and three-dimensional, in which materials, shapes and colors respond to each other, and I think that was a very important turning point in defining my design approach. Since then, color has been an important theme for me, and I see it not as something that is ultimately added to an object, but as something that more proactively influences and controls the form and object. Two years later, I released the Ombré Glass Chair as a tribute to Shiro Kuramata's Glass Chair, which was also a major turning point in my work. Mr. Kuramata realized his work using Photobond 100, which makes it possible to bond glass, and I also used a technology that can be used now to lead innovation through color. My work was picked up by many media and many people were interested in it. The interest continues to this day, and I am amazed at the impact one piece of work can have.

ゲルマンズ2015年のMilan Design Week中に開催された「Dutch Invertuals展」にてShaping Colourという、カラーガラスを使った作品を発表しました。平面と立体の間とも言える、素材と形と色が呼応する作品なのですが、それが私のデザインアプローチを定義づけるとても重要なターニングポイントになったと思います。それ以来、色は私にとって大切なテーマで、オブジェクトに最終的に付加するものではなく、もっと主体的に形やオブジェクトに影響を与え、支配していくものとして捉えています。その2年後に倉俣史朗さんのGlass ChairへのトリビュートとしてOmbré Glass Chairを発表しましたが、そちらも大きな転機となりました。倉俣さんはガラスの接着を可能にするフォトボンド100によって作品を実現させましたが、私も今だから活用できる技術を使い、色によってイノベーションを導きました。作品は多くの媒体に取り上げられ、たくさんの方が興味を示してくれたのですが、その流れは今でも続いていて、1つの作品が持つインパクトに改めて驚いています。

Germans Ermičs, Ombré Glass Chair (2017)
Photo: Jussi Puikkonen
Germans Ermičs, Ombré Glass Chair (2017)
Photo: Jussi Puikkonen

ToshiyaOmbré Glass Chair was on display at Rossana Orlandi Gallery in 2017, wasn't it? It was very impactful. How did you meet Rossana Orlandi?

Ombré Glass Chairは、2017年にRossana Orlandi Galleryで展示されていましたよね。非常にインパクトがありました。Rossana Orlandiとはどのように出会ったのですか?

GermansWhen I graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven, my graduation work caught her eye and she said "I would like to show your work at Milan Design Week next year", which is how we first met. At the time, I didn't know how to present my work and make professional connections, I was also unaware of the collectible design world and fairs such as Design Miami, PAD etc. So during Milan Design Week, I just kept my work in her gallery and looked at the rest of the exhibitions. It's really stupid, but I didn't know what to do at the time. I wasn't able to network or market myself or anything like that at all.

ゲルマンズDesign Academy Eindhovenを卒業するとき、私の卒業制作作品が彼女の目に留まり、「あなたの作品を来年のMilan Design Weekで展示したい」と言われたのが最初の出会いです。ただその時は、作品のプレゼン方法やプロとのコネクションの作り方を分かっていませんでしたし、コレクティブルデザインの業界のことも、Design MiamiやPAD のような展示会のことも知りませんでした。そんな状態だったので、Milan Design Week期間中は彼女のギャラリーに作品だけを置いて、他の展示をずっと見ていました。今思えば本当にバカな話ですけど、その時はどうすればいいのか全然分かっていなかったんです。ネットワークをつくったり、自分を売り込んだり、そういったことが全然できませんでした。

HokutoWe didn't understand the contemporary design scene at all at first, but when we exhibited at Milan Design Week, we met a lot of people and got to know them a little better.

安藤私たちも、コンテンポラリーデザインのシーンのことは最初全然分かっておらず、Milan Design Weekに出展して初めて、いろいろな方と出会い少しずつ理解が深まりました。

ToshiyaBoth you and we+ are in the field of contemporary design, developing new materials based on a number of experiments and making use of them in your works. What is the definition of contemporary design for you?


GermansThat's a big and difficult question. Just as digitization has changed a lot of things, technological advances, the discovery of new materials, and the development of manufacturing methods allow us to do things that weren't possible before. Based on these things, we have to find new design approaches and new ways of seeing and exhibiting things. In other words, I think contemporary design is about providing people with new experiences with a way of thinking that has never been done before. I'm interested in history, tradition and craft, so lately I've been focusing on that kind of research, listening to talks and reading a book by Julia Watson, for example, who advocates radical indigenous design. She travels around the world to explore how the Amazon and other indigenous communities have always lived in harmony with nature without the use of technology, and how they learn from nature rather than control it. I feel that her way of thinking is also very contemporary for our current times.

ゲルマンズそれは大きくて難しい質問ですね。デジタル化によってさまざまな物事が変わったように、技術の進歩や新しい素材の発見、製造方法の開発は、以前は不可能だったことを可能にしてくれます。それらをベースに、新たなデザインアプローチやものの見方、展示の仕方を模索すること。つまり、これまでにはなかった思考で、人々に未知の体験を提供することがコンテンポラリーデザインではないでしょうか。私は歴史や伝統、工芸に興味があるので、最近はそういったリサーチにも注力していて、例えば、Radical Indigenism(急進的な先住民主義)によるデザインを提唱するJulia Watsonのトークを聞いたり、本を読んだりしています。彼女は世界中を旅して、アマゾンや他地域の先住民のコミュニティが、昔からいかにテクノロジーを使わず自然と調和して生きているか、自然をコントロールするのではなく自然から学びを得ながら生きているか、を探っているわけですが、その考え方もまた非常にコンテンポラリーだと感じています。

Julia Watson, Lo—TEK, Design by Radical Indigenism
Julia Watson, Lo—TEK, Design by Radical Indigenism

Reconstructing the way materials are handled


ToshiyaThere are so many things to learn about indigenous people, traditional culture, and craftsmanship, and in fact, we continue to research it. You mentioned that you're also researching materials, what materials are you working on now?


GermansRecently I've been working with natural stone and visiting stone processing companies in Portugal and the Netherlands. Stone is a very beautiful material that is inherently found in the earth. It is already beautiful in itself, so there may not be much a designer can do about it. So my challenge is not to impose a design, but to find a way to enhance the beauty of the stone while taking its advantages. Stone is already used in many places, such as walls and objects, and finding new ways to treat it is very challenging.

I'm also interested in learning how to do things from the industry itself. We designers may not have the knowledge, but our curiosity is strong, so we try to work out what the factory says "difficult! Impossible!". I'm sure you've all experienced something similar, and that's exciting. There are still companies in Germany that make blown glass and stained glass for churches using traditional methods, so I try to visit those places and present new uses and contexts for traditional and beautiful glass. When I first started working with glass, I found it cold and uncomforting material. However, I wanted to make glass more enjoyable and comfortable. So I took a different approach, using color to redefine the way we see glass. I want to try different materials and not be limited to glass and color. There are so many materials in the studio, including resin, stone and metal.



Hokutowe+ also work with natural and special new materials. We also utilize technology, but we try to highlight the physical properties and resulting phenomena in the final output and keep technology out of the foreground. Your approach seems to be very similar to ours and very naive, how much do you use technology?


GermansI use technology, of course, but when it comes to creating certain parts and important elements, I still spend hours working on them by hand. I want the pieces to look as if they were born naturally, and try to avoid anything identifiable to the maker appearing in the forms. For example, when I designed a lighting object in metal, which took a lot of time because they were almost entirely hand-made, I tried to eliminate that atmosphere as much as possible, aiming to evoke the feeling of an object having its own consistency. When I created the carpets, I depicted the transformation of patterns from primitive shapes like squares and circles through bold and intricate handwork, as I intended for them to feel like they are the patterns themselves, not something I designed. Patterns, colors, and textiles are like self-governing organizations, and I just aim to describe how colors change their basic forms in order to live their lives.


A Slant of Light
Photo: DSL Studio
A Slant of Light
Photo: DSL Studio

About the Japanese design scene


ToshiyaYour approach to design, in which you confront materials and convey concepts in a minimalist way, is very Japanese, but what do you think of the Japanese design scene?


GermansI've always been fascinated by Japanese design. I have only been to Japan once and I remember being very inspired. There is a deep understanding of materials and craft, and the level of skill is very high in traditional and beautiful design. I feel that very interesting and thought-provoking things are being produced one after another. I've also read books on wabi-sabi, and am interested in the idea of beauty and the mysteriousness of imperfection. I find the Japanese designers' approach fascinating. Small things, quiet things.... Tokyo, for example, is a very busy city, with lots of wires and roads and lots of stuff, but if you look into the nooks and crannies, you can see how carefully detailed the street drains are. To me, it's also a kind of beauty, and there's a lot to learn from the way things are.

However, Japan is still a small market for contemporary design, represented by the expensive collectible pieces that the culture has fostered in Italy, France and the US. In the Netherlands, where I live, the market for design is actually small and there aren't many design galleries, but everyone is active in seeking work abroad. In fact, the majority of my clients are also in the US. Japan is an island nation with a unique language and culture, and because of the size of its own economy, it allows designers to work only with Japanese clients, so maybe that's a big difference from other countries. In fact, there aren't many young designers like we+ who are showing in European galleries and trying to shed light on different aspects of design, are there? Is it difficult in Japan to express your own ideas and differentiate yourself with initiatives that other studios are not doing? What is the response to your work when you publish it?



Germans Ermičs, Alchemist, Miami (2018)
Photo: Michael Stavaridis
Germans Ermičs, Alchemist, Miami (2018)
Photo: Michael Stavaridis

HokutoI have the impression that we get a stronger response when we show our work abroad, for example in Europe. There aren't many design galleries in Japan, so few people are willing to buy expensive limited edition furniture, for example, which is exactly why we+ shows its work at Rossana Orlandi Gallery and Design Miami.

安藤we+に限って言えば、ヨーロッパなど海外で作品を発表した方がレスポンスが良い印象はあります。日本はデザインギャラリーも少ないので、例えば高価なリミテッドエディションの家具を買おうとする人も少ない。we+がRossana Orlandi Galleryや、Design Miamiで作品を発表するのはまさにそんな理由からです。

GermansJapan is an island country and was closed to the world for 200 years, so is the culture different at all? It's a country with a beautiful art and design history and tradition, and I feel like it has its own spirituality, its own little universe. But I just did a little research, and since Japan is a corporate society, the majority of people study to get into big companies. It's like there is a strong hierarchy in society. So I do feel that it must be very difficult for small studios and independent artists to find a place to live. In the Netherlands, there are cases of taking over large disused office spaces and renting them inexpensively and turning them into studios and living spaces. The government's cultural institutions are rather generous, offering scholarships and financial support for projects and exhibitions abroad, which can be very helpful for designers trying to make a name for themselves in the world. Magazines and other media are also very important in terms of delivering interesting content to readers and bringing about a change of mind. I think this is wonderful that there are some Japanese people, like Ms. Kida from ELLE DÉCOR Japan, who travel around the world and introduce designers to Rossana Orlandi.

ゲルマンズ日本は島国で、200年も鎖国!をしていたから、全然文化が違うのでしょうか。美しいアートとデザインの歴史・伝統を持つ国で、独自の精神性、小さな宇宙を持っていると私は感じているんですけどね。ただ、ちょっとだけ調べたんですが、日本は企業社会なので、大多数の人が大企業に入るために勉強しますよね。社会に強いヒエラルキーが存在すると言うか。だから、小さなスタジオや独立したアーティストが、居場所を見つけるのはとても難しそうだなとは感じます。オランダでは、使われなくなった大きなオフィススペースを引き継いで、安価に借りてスタジオや居住スペースにするといったケースがあります。政府の文化機関は気前が良くて、奨学金の制度があったり、プロジェクトや海外展示への出展を金銭面でサポートしたりしているので、世界で名前を売ろうとするデザイナーにとって非常に助けになります。また、雑誌などの媒体も、読者に興味深い内容を届け、マインド変化をもたらす意味ではとても重要です。日本人にも、ELLE DECORの木田さんのように、世界を飛び回り、Rossana Orlandiにデザイナーを紹介されるような方もいらっしゃるので、それはすばらしいことだと思っています。

Balance between independent projects and commissioned work


ToshiyaThat's right. Furthermore, I think that in order to develop a small studio, you need to do both research activities like R&D and make money, how do you balance independent projects and commissioned work?


GermansObviously, the balance has changed. When I started my studio, I invested all the profits I earned. I didn't get much of a return at first, but I paid for my own travel and production costs to show my work in Milan to get my name out there. I tried to approach companies, but it didn't work out, so I started presenting what I wanted to do at exhibitions and other events, which gradually raised my profile and I began to receive commissions. I felt like I was finally at the real starting line as a studio. Looking back, I don't know if I ever really thought about balance. Balance is hard, exciting work often comes with a small budget, and collaborating with fascinating companies and partners takes up a lot of time and energy. Of course you need money to run a studio, and in my case, selling my work and material-related projects helps to do this, but it's troubling that it occupies so much effort, reducing time for new projects. We have to deal with transportation procedures and production control emails. A lot of time is spent on those things and there's less time to be creative.


The Circle Of Fifths for Wallpaper Handmade (2019)
Photo: Leon Chew
The Circle Of Fifths for Wallpaper Handmade (2019)
Photo: Leon Chew

HokutoWe've had a similar experience. Four or five years ago, we had more time to think about the work and experiment with materials, however in the last few years the studio has grown and we've felt the need to make a conscious effort to create that time.


ToshiyaIndeed, as the number of projects increases, time for experimentation can be constrained.


GermansIn that sense, the lockdown period for coronavirus was a great time for me. A lot of things stopped and I was home for the whole three months, but I was able to get back to the starting line. Last year I worked on several large projects, I felt overworked and needed to slow down. So this year is going to be the year to work on research and go back to the drawing board and figure out what I want to do.


ToshiyaIt's certainly a great time for contemplation and research, isn't it? Lastly, what is your message to our readers?


GermansMy advice to young designers who want to start their own business is to just find your unique point of view. Find a subject you are passionate about and a unique way of doing things that is unconventional, and invest in those, even if it means taking some risks. It's also important to improve the quality of the photos in your work. Nowadays, communication is very active on social networking sites, and this allows you to bring your work to the world. Of course, it's also important to travel the world and understand different cultures firsthand. I also moved from my birthplace in Latvia to Denmark, France, and now to the Netherlands, and this has changed my view of the world. If you come to Europe from Japan, you might get a different perspective because the culture is even more different!




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