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Interview with Valérie Maltaverne, Director of YMER&MALTA Studio

In 2009, Valérie Maltaverne established her design agency YMER&MALTA to combine creative innovation with the highest level of craftsmanship and aesthetic excellence. A former audio and video producer with twenty years of experience, Maltaverne approaches design as a producer conceives a story, allowing each object to weave a beautiful narrative. She combines her extensive design knowledge with her far-reaching connections to major figures in the field, and has developed projects with designers such as Benjamin GraindorgeSylvain Rieu-Piquet, and Normal Studio.

As part of Oui Design, YMER&MALTA Director Valérie Maltaverne will give a presentation on the philosophy and process of her French design studio, which she conceives of as a research lab, on Wednesday, May 11, at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

Dorothée Charles: Can you tell us a bit about Ymer&Malta studio ?

Valérie Maltaverne: YMER&MALTA studio is known for its unique approach to design. Our work is constantly in between art, design and a French know-how.  Each collection is a witty combination of traditional craftsmanship and cutting edge innovation, we offer timeless design pieces. All YMER&MALTA collections are one of a kind or limited editions of 8 pieces.

DC: How do you work with designers and artisans? How do you choose who to collaborate with? What is your role within these collaborations?

VM: Our way of working is very special. It’s a constant dialogue. The creative process usually lasts two years and is an ongoing dialogue between designers, the craftsmen and YMER&MALTA. But first it begins with the designer and me :  we discuss, share and swap ideas every day. It’s often a long, winding path from the first sketch to the extraordinary final work, seemingly so obvious that we should instantly have discovered the right material, colours, techniques and skills. To get there we had to encounter passionate craftsmen, each of whom contributed their expertise which we diverted from its traditional context to produce highly contemporary works. Yet the knowledge that imbues these pieces gives the oeuvre its substance. This is the fascinating profession of the YMER&MALTA studio.

DC: The nature (HFC note: does this mean ‘material’?) is the inspiration of each collection. How do you conceive of the various collections (marble, leather, marquetry)?

VM: Of course nature is part of our inspiration but it’s not an evidence (HFC note: not sure what this means, maybe something like ‘but it does not simply determine what we do’ - also still don’t really know what ‘nature’ means here - seems to be something other than ‘material’ since she uses that word in the next sentence..). Nature is very inspiring but the birth of a collection starts with a material, a technique. First we define the theme, find best skilled craftsmen and select the most bold and daring design sketches. The choice of a material and our craft leads us to the creation. For at least one year we concentrate on the material we have chosen,  from drawings to the final piece - a very long process. So far, YMER&MALTA has worked on materials such as marble and leather. Recently we have decided to reinvent the traditional French craft of marquetry.   

DC: How do you bring traditional "techniques" into a contemporary, innovative and unique process ?

VM: The goal behind YMER&MALTA's collections is to push formal and technical boundaries further away. Our commitment to reinvent older techniques and materials has been hailed by the press and followed closely by internationally recognized collectors, curators and Institutions such as the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris or the CNAP (Centre National des Arts Plastiques, Paris) who regularly buy our work. For instance, our latest exhibition, Marquetry: the Sleeping Beauty aims to bring new luster to this traditional form of craftsmanship. 

DC: What is your next project ?

VM: Each collection is a creative journey, and the next one will be dedicated to the Tapisserie D’Aubusson. Aubusson has entrusted us with the creation of five prototypes. Our studio is now working within the history of French tapestry (tapisserie). This collection will reinterpret another lost art with poetry, imagination and fluidity.