The Danish designer Rikke Hagen is happy to be at the intersection of design and craftsmanship. This is where ideas come to life and this position also makes the optimal design possible – in a constructive dialogue between designer and manufacturer.
Rikke Hagen becomes humble as well as eccentric, facing a skilled craftsman. In contrast, she is truly at ease expressing a brilliant idea with finesse and professional competency.
“I want to go beyond the craftsmanship and I’m driven by a huge curiosity when it comes to all of the procedures,” says Rikke Hagen, who claims to feel physically unwell when she experiences poorly executed design.
“Good design manufactured with great competence and professionalism rises up and becomes relevant,” she explains. She produces designs in her own name and in the name of her company HAGEN ETC.. In her company, she cooperates with other designers in developing and manufacturing interior design as well as furniture. The catalyst for this design process is when architecture meets fashion, design and art. The goal is to create intuitive products but with a strict focus on combining innovative design with sublime craftsmanship.
Rikke Hagen pays homage to the collaboration between different niches and has for the past few decades been driven by a well-defined design strategy – a strategy that allows her to try and use new materials and take on new challenges. Throughout the years, she has worked with glass, clay, textiles and metal, as well as wood – but always in very close cooperation with a production team and with great respect for the fundamental craftsmanship.
“My first job is not only to be knowledgable about the material chosen for the specific assignment, it is also to understand the craftsmanship and the production premises. As a designer I’m not required to be insightful on every process, or for that matter to have a profound knowledge of every kind of material. Therefore it is of the utmost importance that I spend a great deal of time communicating with specialists.”
Rikke Hagen graduated from the Danish Design School in 1998, with glass and ceramics as her speciality. Originally she planned to work in textiles, but when a colleague introduced her to ‘the glass’ she had to surrender.
“Glass is a fascinating material, but also demanding and difficult to control. Already during my time at Holmegaard [a Danish glass production company], it has occured to me how important it is to have a dialogue with skilled craftsmen. My excitement is obvious to everyone as I watch a production line. It is here you see which obstacles as well as possibilities you find in a material. Watching a production line also enables you to observe boundaries in the material and for me it is very often in the workshop or on the factory floor where your best ideas occur.” Besides a number of years working in her own glass workshop, Rikke Hagen has collaborated with many Danish and international brands such as Normann Copenhagen, Kähler, Georg Jensen and Bolia.
“A lot of designers are nervous about losing control of their design when entering into collaborations with others. I claim that you can easily have a dialogue and search for new knowledge without compromising your fundamental idea,”
– explains Rikke Hagen. At the moment she is very active in the Danish Factory of Ceramics on the island of Bornholm. The factory opened in March and has 19 designers and ceramicists. Rikke Hagen is one of the co-owners. Bornholm is also known as the Island of Sunshine, and here she is optimising the appearance of a ceramic set in order to make it look like it is mass-produced. During such a process, it makes good sense to be present at the factory and literally have your hands in the pot.
“As a designer it provides me with different opportunities I would not have, had the production been in China or Portugal,” she explains. This coming spring she also has a collection of textile work in the pipeline, developed in cooperation with Georg Jensen Damask.
“In this process I have used a special production technique: the looms use punched cards in the manufacturing process and at the same time we use the idea of digital pixels. In this way we have managed to combine new and old technology – an idea that was only made possible due to the close dialogue I have had with the company and the fact that they let me go behind the scenes and all the way into the heart of their processes,” Rikke Hagen says.
“In HAGEN ETC. we will very shortly be introducing a supported table, designed by Peter Johansen. In this we have worked with the ‘knock-down’ principle – inspired by Japanese joinery – but we have manufactured using CNC-cutting. Also in this process, a good result depends on a constructive collaboration with professionals, an ability to understand the production line and of course… a brilliant idea,” she finishes.