Designers (from all fields) are supposed to shape the world in which we live, aren’t they. Written like that, it seems like a pretty heavy task, but Luis Eslava prefers to enjoy and explore the irony of this job. Born in Valencia (Spain) in 1976, he studied Product and Graphic Design there and worked for important Spanish companies like Camper before moving to London in 2003 to do a Master at the Royal College of Art, the promised land of designers these days.
Luis Eslava. Right: Face to Face installation at the Design Museum, London (2007).
He spent the following four years at the British capital, setting up a studio there and releasing products for companies like Okusa Ltd. or ABR. It was there where he created the USB memory stick called Oh Mary, keep my data safe, one of the most hilarious pieces of design many of us have seen for quite some time. He has recently returned to Valencia and set his proper studio there, but his relationship with London is still intense. He has exhibited at the Aram Gallery and also has just had an installation at the Design Museum. Thus, oscillating between sunny Spain and hectic England, this young designer, that likes to work with the idea of caos as a new order and to use cheap materials to give them a new life, continues to create wherever his imagination and clients take him.
You had a good Cv and a good deal of experience (even working for companies like Camper) before taking the MA at the Royal College of Art in London. What made you take the decision to go there and what did you learn?
I had friends studying there and they were tempting me telling me all about the education, the programs and the tutors at the Master of the Royal College. It all seemed very interesting to me. As for what I learned there, I can say I discovered a lot about myself and my concerns about design, and how I wanted to focus my career.
Bulb shade (2005), a project the merges the existing archetypes of the bulb and the lampshade.
What’s your opinion on the design scene in both countries, if you compare them, and which would you choose if you had to?
I have been in London for almost four years and I have made a lot of contacts and friends there. In Valencia, on the other hand, I have my own studio. The prices for renting there are much more affordable and you can easily have access to a big space to work. Also the quality of life here is definitely higher. Anyway, given the facilities to travel to London nowadays (is very cheap and fast) you don’t need to “choose”, so I take both. I have my headquarters at Valencia, but I travel to London whenever it is necessary.
One of you projects is called My mess, in which you “celebrate mess as an acceptable part of human behaviour”. Its interesting, because instead of creating a system to arrange stuff, its more like a system to dis-arrange it, to build caos instead of order, which in the end is something new in design, isn’t it. Is it caos as a generator of beauty an important concept in your work?
Yes, it is, definitely. I think that the human nature tends to mess and untidiness. A kind of order within disorder and that randomness becomes beauty.
My mess (2005), clothes hanger and room divider.
You form part of the Xiu Xiu collective. What is that exactly?
It’s a group of friends that got together around 2002. It came from the necessity of three friends to share ideas and concepts related to design. We were all living on different places and when we met, physically or on line, we shared our experiences and ideas. From that exchange emerged XiuXiu (we took that name because XiuXiu in our dialect means to gossip, to chat and whisper).
Salon Nude, from the Valencia Furniture Fair, is lately getting more and more attention from the design press (even from bibles like Icon). Do you think the design scene in Spain is finally reaching an interesting point?
Well, I think the design culture has always existed here, even if at a more “shy” level. Now its reaching a more stable and confident stage, with more designers working here and abroad. Also the industry here is trusting and investing more in young designers, which brings fresh air to the scene and calls the attention of the international press.
I first heard of you because of your “Virgin” USB memory stick Oh Maria, keep my data safe, which made me laugh for a whole day because it is true that we all use and trust in technology in a semi-religious way (we all have prayed at some point for our computer not to crash or for some file not to dissapear misteriously). How did you came with that idea?
That was one of my first projects at the Royal College of Art in London. They made us reflect on amulets and Maria was my conclusion on how technology is becoming our new religion, in which we trust as a matter of faith. It has been produced by the company ABR and you can buy at several stores in Madrid and Barcelona, like Vinçon.
Oh Maria, keep my data safe (2004), USB memory stick.
I have seen on your website some other projects related to clothes, lots of shoes and even a shirt. Is it Fashion something that interests you specially or is it simply another form of design?
To me, design is a creative process that you can apply to many perspectives and disciplines. I have done industrial, graphic, fashion design… Its all part of the same field. The only things that change are the materials and production processes, and that makes it even more interesting.
What interest you more, the research or the possibility of producing your designs?
Both, they are both part of the process. First you do the research to create something interesting, then you produce it (if you are lucky). For some projects, however, the research part is more intense than in others, obviously.
What companies produce your work?
ABR and Sol y Luna in Spain, Okusa Ltd. in Japan amongst others.
When did you first got interested in design? When did you decide to work on this?
It was pretty random, to be honest. Before going to University, Design was the option that I didnt “dislike” of all the careers that I could study. But then I got really into it and here I am!
Face to face (2007), velcro lamp exhibited at the Design Museum, London.
One of your last projects, that was exhibited at the Design Museum, is Face to Face, a lamp made of such a cheap material as velcro. What are you working on now?
Im working on several projects, a collection of outdoors furniture, an lighting installation in London…
Finally, since some years, there has been this debate on whether Design is Art, if it should or should not be considered Art and so on… It is clear that lately there is craze on collecting design pieces from the biggest names, one-off super expensive items… What do you think about this? Is it a positive or negative thing?
The culture of Design is definitely growing and reaching more and more people outside the sector, and also the borders between Art and Design are becoming more subtle. There is also some kind of disappointment of the public with Art, I think, because it has neglected a bit its social function. But Design maintains this social use, which is linked to its function, and has very much refined its aesthetic appeal, so maybe that is why now it’s winning the game. People still need cult objects for their everyday life and they can find them in the Design world in a much more accessible way.
Pussy Lawn (2006), chair made of coconut fiber compressed with latex.
More info at: http://www.luiseslava.com/