For the first time in over 100 years, Swarovski has enlisted the skills of independent designers to create a new range of crystal components. In this exclusive interview, design duo Fredriskon Stallard describe the honour of creating the Glaciarium chandeliers.
Designed exclusively for Swarovski, Fredrikson Stallard presented their Glaciarium collection during this year’s London Design Festival.
Inspired by the mysterious appearance of crystal and its behaviour in its raw state, the new collection of objects includes a series of vases, bowls and candle-holders as well as four stunning chandeliers: Avalon, Helios, Superline and Voltaire, which sit alongside and a series of crystal chandelier components for independent designers to work with.
While Patrick Fredrikson and Ian Stallard have collaborated on numerous projects with Swarovski that span a decade, this is the first time designers from outside the ‘Swarovski family’ have been asked to design the individual crystal components, and as such the project has been a great honour for the design duo, as they explained to darc: “The outside world won’t realise what a big deal this is,” says Fredrikson. “Swarovski have, over the years, asked fashion and jewellery designers to reinterpret their work and more recently, a broader range of creatives, but this is the first time they’ve let anybody get to the heart of the company and create the shapes of the crystals themselves. It’s a huge honour to be asked to do this and so we had to do something that took the crystal components into the next century – it wasn’t enough for us to just create a new shape.
“It’s great to design something that then becomes a building block for other designers – it’s like creating words for someone to create a story with. That for us, is just as exciting as developing the chandeliers ourselves.”
“It’s going to be really interesting to see what other designers will do with the components,” adds Stallard. “Even the chandeliers we’ve created are modular in the way that interior designers and architects can work with them.
“This is a new chapter for Swarovski and one of the challenges was to be able to marry the former components with these new ones. We had to create components that would create all sorts of chandeliers for all sorts of lighting applications.”
“The new shape of the components is very soft and curvaceous in comparison to the harsh, straight forward cut we’re used to seeing from Swarovski and we had to get the right balance between the two,” continues Fredrikson. “The reason we use crystals in the first place is because we want that extra sparkle, extra explosion of light and refraction and each one of the components needed to keep that element.”
Having first met Nadja Swarovski ten years ago when asked to propose a piece for Swarovski Crystal Palace, Fredrikson Stallard has built up a relationship that is more like a working family where honesty and a creative vision go hand in hand. “Nadja is a real visionary,” says Stallard. “Swarovski is amazing in the way it works, they never say something can’t be done, we’ve not hit that wall with them yet and that’s really amazing. There is this entire team that has a real spirit of making something better, asking how something can be pushed forward.”
“We’ve got to a point where we feel comfortable presenting ideas to them and vice versa,” adds Fredrikson. “Then we try to find the right time and place to do something about it. I think Swarovski also appreciate our honesty, we have quite a harsh editing process within the studio… just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.
“We try to push the material but also understand it at the same time; crystal is a very tricky material because it can be considered kitsch in some ways, it’s about the bling and the sparkle… Whereas for us, it’s much more about its inherent qualities, it’s about the heart of the material and we never use any materials as a decoration or because we have to, it’s more about the material becoming intrinsic to the piece. All of these elements have made our relationship with Swarovski very symbolic.”
As designers, for Fredrikson Stallard it’s important that they don’t deliberately constrain themselves. Untraditional in their process, their aim is to create something that the world is a better place for having rather than producing something that really, when you look at it closer, is unnecessary.
“There are some aspects of product design which are very much about creating something in a more simple way and it’s more about functionality, which is great,” says Fredrikson. “Then there’s what we do, which is at the complete other end of the scale – creating objects which we feel will enhance people’s lives… it’s the middle ground which we don’t really understand, where people generate more and more products that don’t necessarily do anything different – they just look slightly different or have added functions that aren’t really necessary.
“When we come to our own work we describe it as turning the volume up and down. We ask ourselves how creative we can be with a design object; for example you wouldn’t be able to furnish an entire house with our Species sofa, you’d go insane and as such we have other pieces that maybe don’t fit on the front cover of a magazine, but they’re much quieter in the space and create the canvas for the paint so to speak.”
Having both studied at St Martins College, London, which is where the Fredrikson Stallard story begins, both designers feel their different upbringings, experiences and influences have worked together to form a partnership that is quite unique. Born in Sweden, for Fredrikson design was always very imprinted in his life – Scandinavian design is not something you can avoid, running through everyday life in a very conscious way and it was almost this that pushed him towards London, with its floods of people moving in and out of the city, turning it into something quite amazing. “London spoils you,” he tells darc. “I’ve been here 22 years and it’s still the most amazing city on the planet to me. You have everything you need and want. I consider Swedish design as my heritage but then I moved on from that.”
“I think for me, coming from an English seaside town moving to London at the age of nineteen was fabulous,” says Stallard. “What had the biggest impact on me is the interdisciplinary nature of the city, particularly at St Martins where you had very creative people from different backgrounds studying different disciplines. You don’t feel like you’re being pigeonholed into a certain style of work.”
And when working with light?
“It’s difficult to say what lighting ‘should’ bring to a space,” continues Stallard. “There are some incredible lighting designers out there and we see it when we visit the homes of clients that are fine art collectors – their homes are always lit beautifully, but you never really know where the lighting is coming from.
“What we do is create objects that bring something special to a space, essentially sculptural objects that involve light. With Swarovski crystals it is all about light and reflections and refractions, movement and colour within the crystals, so you need to work with light, it’s essential and part of it. To me, working with light is like painting.”