“My workshop is just as important as my pencil,” claims furniture designer Hans Sandgren Jakobsen, who is one of the most prestigious and sought-after designers in Asia these days.
One of the reasons is his ability to visualise his designs and actively challenge the materials used as well as the methods of production – all due to his background as a craftsman.
Due to global competition and different levels of wages throughout the world, the crafting insight of a designer is critical. At least this is the experience of Hans Sandgren Jakobsen. He recently returned to Denmark after the Shanghai Furniture Fair, where he showcased his “Daisy” chair, which takes 3D laminates to new extremes. This type of research into the potential and the technical limitations of the materials – in this case how deep a seat can actually be made from 3D laminates – requires quite a few skills, know-how and education. Hans Sandgren Jakobsen believes that his combination of an education as a designer AND a craftsman is worth gold.
“My ability to explore is simply higher than what others can do, since I’m able to refer to the old Danish traditions of working with wood and furniture, and in addition combine these with innovative thinking,” he claims. As you might have guessed by now, Hans Sandgren Jakobsen not only trained to be a cabinetmaker, he also studied to be a designer. He creates many of his furniture designs as prototypes, crafted in his own workshop in Grenaa, which is situated at the “nose” of the Danish mainland. This makes him able to present a complete layout to the manufacturer, taking over the final production.
“Paper is 2D, while my workshop is 3D. Here I can explore new shapes and push the boundaries of what we normally believe to be possible. This is important when you work with complex subjects such as the body of a chair or when you have to find out if a table is actually stable.” Hans Sandgreen Jakobsen naturally also works with advanced drawing tools, which give him a nice visual feeling of a design – but they are not able to give him the impression of stability, sitting comfort or the tactile expression of the work.
“The advantage of having mastered the craftsmanship means that I always work in possibilities and not limitations,” Hans Sandgreen Jakobsen explains. He has achieved great success in Asia, especially in China and Japan, with his Scandinavian designs, which is why he spends almost half of his working time there:
“Scandinavian design is very popular and it feels like in Asia they have really opened their eyes to the Nordic way of designing and shaping. There are many great craftsmen in, for instance, Vietnam, but quite often they lack the ability to read and translate drawings. They much rather prefer to work and communicate via 3D models. This actually means that a lot of my designs would never have been produced if I had not shown up with a model.”
Hans Sandgreen Jakobsen appreciates the possibilities of working across boundaries, but sees a challenge if all of Danish production moves overseas – especially if the designers are not able to show up at the doorstep with a real model or prototype:
“In the golden age of Danish design, furniture architects typically spent a great deal of their everyday life in workshops and visiting the manufacturers. The furniture was created through a dialogue between the designer and craftsman. This possibility only exists at a small scale today, and even though it is very easy to move files and designers around the world, I believe we still need that clever and developing dialogue at the manufacturer’s to create the best products.”
He admits that in 3D sketching almost everything is possible and it even looks amazing: “But when sketching meets reality, the result is very often a series of challenges and unsolved problems!”
Hopefully “Daisy” will have a softer welcome in the world? At this point, Hans Sandgreen Jakobsen is awaiting the response to his new chair, which is only the first of several chairs that push technology to its limits.