With Sabine Marcelis, IKEA lets light lead the way
From lifting spirits to setting the mood, light is far more to everyday life than simply a guide in the dark. For designer Sabine Marcelis, it's just as much inspiration and tool – not least in her new collaboration with IKEA. We talked to Sabine about the idea behind the upcoming collection, her fascinations, and how light comes into play with it all.
In Rotterdam, Studio Sabine Marcelis sits right at the harbour, its glass façade facing the exact point where the sun often sets in what Sabine herself describes as an amazing display of colours and light.
"This really nice, warm light hits the studio at the end of the day, where it bounces off all the mirrors. It's something very small and momentary, but it makes me super happy", says Sabine. "It for sure also influences my way of working, and the colour combinations return in my work".
Celebrated for work that thoughtfully highlights material properties and processes, Sabine can transform light play like spectacular sunsets and curious shadows into artful designs in the shape of, say, this IKEA Art Event 2021 lamp. In a new collaboration, Sabine joins IKEA for a new exploration of light, including and beyond its source. One that marks the start of a journey to strengthen the connection between the many people and the light in our homes.
"Sabine has a profound knowledge of colour, material, and light. With her insight and ability to materialise it in sculptural objects, we can create an emotional layer to light and show that it's more than just a function. It's about creating the feeling of a home", says Henrik Most, Product Design Leader at IKEA.
The result will be a timeless range of products in different materials, shapes, and colours that promise to play with the surprising effects of light on wellbeing and life at home.
"Light is such an amazing tool to work with," says Sabine, who uses both natural and artificial light as a design tool. "It can really activate any project, whether static or moving. And when the light hits certain shapes, they can completely transform a space".
With curiosity as a guiding light
Sabine's career as a designer may actually have started in jewellery, seeing as she made and sold her own next to her parents' flower stall at New Zealand markets growing up.
"We were really encouraged by my parents to be creative. They didn't want us to buy anything for their birthdays. It was always 'make us something'", she says. "I always really enjoyed doing my own thing, thinking, how does this work? What can I learn? What can I make?"
Sabine's curiosity has since led her through other creative pursuits, including snowboarding, and from studies in industrial design in Wellington to conceptual design at Design Academy in Eindhoven. Eventually, she settled into her own design practice with Studio Sabine Marcelis, drawing on materiality to colour outside the lines of her once schooled approach.
"My studies were very much geared towards product design. In my daily work, it's much more of an exploration of an effect in a material, more just playing with the material and light", Sabine explains. "It's a mix between art and design."
Sabine's greatest love is understanding how materials work, how to manipulate them, and how to play with them. She tends to be very close to the production in her usual projects, often aiming to execute the idea just as envisioned. Her favourite part of the work? Trying to do the impossible—and the adrenaline rush of succeeding.
"I'm very fortunate to be carrying out my fascinations. I wholeheartedly think that I'm not able to create a good design if I'm not super excited by it myself. My biggest fear is to be bored with work", says Sabine. Given a moment to think, she eventually notes that she can't remember the last time she was bored. Beyond combining studio, workshop, and family life, the reason seems quite simple. "I'm always chasing the challenge—and staying curious."
Creating artful design for the many people
For Sabine, the creative process behind the upcoming collection with IKEA has been a new adventure altogether.
"Which is why it's also been so fun", she says. "I'm much like a perfectionist, but I've learned to think, 'Okay, we can't do that, so we adapt it, it becomes this' much more. Some objects have really morphed through working with what's possible in production, with the material and colour restrictions, and become much better than the original idea."
A big exercise in the collaboration has been to optimise material use and try not to create any waste. Keeping dimensions optimal for function, aesthetics, and the overall look while at the same time making sure it's all fit to flatpack.
"I haven't had to think of these things before because I never really designed in volume, but it's been really rewarding to land on the perfect proportion for something for optimal use of the material", says Sabine.
If you ask Sabine, one of the most fun parts about collaborating with IKEA is that the products land in so many different homes.
"People have the freedom and ability to make their own interpretations of your designs and place them in their very diverse interiors", she says, recounting her experience getting tagged in homes all over the world on Instagram for the IKEA Art Event lamp.
She wishes for the same with the upcoming collection, and also for the objects to evoke a sense of warmth and positivity.
"I truly believe that the things that you surround yourself with in your home do affect your mood. I hope people are conscious about their purchases and that when they do buy something and it lives with them in their home, that it sparks some happiness every time they see it. And I do hope that it keeps providing something new to discover."
The collaboration between IKEA and Sabine Marcelis will be in stores in October 2022.