Interview with Odile Hainaut & Claire Pijoulat, Co-Founders of WantedDesign, New York

March 3, 2016 | By Dorothée Charles
Odile Hainaut & Claire Pijoulat © Michel Arnaud

In 2011, Odile Hainaut and Claire Pijoulat founded WantedDesign, a platform for US and international design that culminates each May with a series of events and conversations. WantedDesign has since become a cornerstone of NYCxDesign, a citywide 12-day celebration of design. Last year, Hainaut and Pijoulat expanded the program to include two sites, the original venue in Chelsea, and a new location at Industry City in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.


Dorothée Charles: WantedDesign 2016 is the sixth edition of the platform. This year Wanteddesign Brooklyn projects will be oriented around the idea of "Innovation & savoir-faire." Why did you choose this theme?

Odile Hainaut and Claire Pijoulat: WantedDesign Brooklyn was added to WantedDesign Manhattan in 2015, as a destination dedicated to design education and multidisciplinary installations, keeping Manhattan more trade focused. Taking place at Industry City, a place dedicated to innovators and makers, it is the perfect environment to create this new hub during NYCxDESIGN for large school presentations as well as exhibitions showcasing experimental projects and documenting the production process.

WantedDesign Brooklyn is open to both those in the design industry and the general public interested in discovering and learning more about what design can do, the research side of it, and what is “behind the products.”

DC: This year, specific projects promote creative exchanges between France and the U.S. Can you detail the collaborations you initiated and the projects you selected?

OH & CP: We are excited to partner with the French Embassy for the OUI design initiative. As “French-New Yorkers”, we have always been interested by French American exchanges, and this year allows us to bring a solid French program. 

It was  interesting for us to initiate collaborations as well as presenting great French designers and companies, and French organizations like the VIA, which could serve as a model in the US for supporting young designers. From conversations we had on both American and French sides, we understand the shared interest in collaboration, but there is actually not much knowledge in France about the new generation of designers that we have here in the US.

So the idea of a “Creative Transatlantic Exchanges” came naturally, as hopefully the beginning of future and long term collaborations.

We also wanted to showcase successful existing French-American collaborations. Jerry Helling, from Bernhardt design, is one key US manufacturer who has been working successfully with French designers, like Noé Duchaufour Lawrance or Patrick Jouin. Next May, Bernhardt will be launching a new collection resulting from a collaboration with French young designer Océane Delain, who just graduated from ENSCI-Les ateliers, that Jerry Helling discovered a year ago thanks to the VIA "aide a projets" program. We will be presenting this project at WantedDesign Manhattan, along with a talk co-hosted with Chantal Hamaide from Intramuros magazine.

WantedDesign Manhattan will also highlight the collaboration of Seattle based LightArt with a duo of Lyon based designers, iwoodlove (Rochetoirin, France) - Guillaume Martin and Michael Damen and the launch of the Ant Lounge chair for kids, designed by French designer Philippe Nacson for kinderMODERN.

And for the first time, along with seven other country’s group exhibits, we will present a large French Pavilion at WantedDesign Manhattan organized by Business France. So hopefully more French design will be found in the U.S. soon!

One of our goals is to talk about the cultural background of a project, and how you can talk about a country, a region, through the design industry, through materials and the specific savoir faire.

This is why the project “We trust in wood” between Matali Crasset and the Vent de Forêts organization based in La Meuse region is particularly relevant and will be presented in Brooklyn.

DC: For “ Transatlantic Creative Exchanges", you commissioned French and American designers to work with French and American manufacturers. The first session is devoted to glass, aluminium and upholstery with international research centers, companies, manufacturers and five designers. Could you explain the project, the approaches and the result?

OH & CP: The "Transatlantic Creative Exchanges” project will unfold between May 2016 to May 2017. A total of 10 French-American duos will be created, based on their mutual interest in collaborating with one another. The goal is that both designers and manufacturers experiment and explore new territories together, thanks to the designers’ creativity and vision and the manufacturers and artisans unique expertise. The exhibition at WantedDesign Brooklyn will be showcasing prototypes and unique pieces resulting from these collaborations between French and American designers and manufacturers. The first chapter will present five pairs: The Meisenthal International Glass Art Center (CIAV) collaborated with Chicago based Steven Haulenbeek, The International Glass and Visual Arts Research Center (CIRVA) with Washington based Jonah Takagi, French design manufacturer Ligne Roset with Brooklyn New York based Marc Thorpe,  California based aluminium manufacturer Neal Feay Company with Noé Duchaufour Lawrance and Tabisso with Las Vegas based Michael Stolworthy.

There will be two projects around Glass, two projects around aluminium, one table and one stool, and one project envisioning a seating as a real intimate space. Each of these projects are exploring new forms, new techniques, new typologies of objects.

The  2017 second chapter pairings will be revealed in May 2016, and we are hoping to present the resulting exhibition in Paris in 2017.

That will be a real exchange.

DC: Since the beginning, integrating school programs with exhibitions and workshops was part of WantedDesign. Which schools will be involved this year? And which school is invited to lead the week-long workshop?

OH & CP: Yes, absolutely. Since year one, it was important for us to include schools projects, to have students and school representatives involved in our program.

This year marks the fifth anniversary of the Design Schools Workshop. Fostering the international network between young designers as well as initiating partnerships between schools and manufacturers, this workshop is deeply aligned with the DNA of the show. From May 12 to May 16, students from across six schools will join the Workshop, supported by Core77 and conducted by Matt Sindall / Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle (ENSCI- Les ateliers). We really wanted to have a French school lead the workshop this year, as part of our participation to OUI design, and ENSCI-Les Ateliers have participated for three years in the workshop, so it’s fantastic to have the school on board. The students will focus this year on an exploration of materials: glass, wood and textile under the theme of “playfulness”. We want them to combine thinking and making.

The Workshop will take place at WantedDesign Brooklyn, at Industry City. The main “class room/studio” will be a dedicated area within WantedDesign Brooklyn, for the conceptual phase, work in progress review, and textile production. Projects including wood will be produced in a wood studio at Industry City and glass parts will be produced at Brooklyn Glass, located fifteen minutes from Industry City. All teams will be supervised by mentors for each material, including Elodie Blanchard for textiles, and, of course, Matt Sindall, and a dedicated WantedDesign team.

The final public presentation will take place at the Conversation Lounge at WantedDesign Manhattan in Chelsea on Monday, May 16. Students will present their projects to a jury of professionals including Allan Chochinov, chair of SVA|NYC MFA Products of Design and editor-at-large of design blog Core77, Susan Szenasy, publisher and editor in chief of Metropolis magazine, Caroline Baumann, director of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and Lalique CEO Maz Zouhairi.

The participating Schools are Centro (Mexico), Art Center College for Design (Pasadena), Aalto University (Finland), ENSCI-Les Ateliers (France), Escuela de Communicacion Monica Herrera (El Salvador), Pratt Institute (Brooklyn).

DC: We trust in wood is” an exhibition made by matali crasset in collaboration with Vent des forets, a rural center in France. Could you tell us about the process of producing this project?

OH & CP: matali crasset ’s collaboration with Vent des forêts seemed to be more of a design project. It addresses an area of France, la Meuse, that is quite unknown and it involved local artisans and high school students. The result was an invitation for the public to walk, dream and experiment in this unique setting of small wooden huts in the forest.

Part of OUI design, it’s great to bring this project to a larger audience and to have US visitors discover an original French initiative, and, of course, to meet matali crasset and learn more about her diverse and unique career. Not only will visitors at WantedDesign Brooklyn be able to explore this story but they also will be able to buy the products including wood objects like tools and table wares, as well as blankets. matali crasset participated in the very first edition of WantedDesign in 2011 and we are delighted to be welcoming her again next May.

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