Duo reviving the craft of kings

Yang Di
Namuun Zimmermann (German) and Martijn Rigters (Dutch) are founders of Studio Sain, a contemporary design studio focusing on experimental object design.
Yang Di
Duo reviving the craft of kings
Courtesy of Design Shanghai / Ti Gong

Namuun Zimmermann (German) and Martijn Rigters (Dutch) are founders of Studio Sain, a contemporary design studio focusing on experimental object design.


Who are they?

Namuun Zimmermann (German) and Martijn Rigters (Dutch) are founders of Studio Sain, a contemporary design studio focusing on experimental object design.

The duo met in 2014 at the Royal College of Art in London and joined their design practices in 2018 to form Studio Sain. Having lived and worked in the Hague, London and Vienna, they recently relocated their studio to China.

Please share with us some of your works, and name the one you are most proud of.

Bulbous is a collection of hand-turned wooden objects, consisting of lights, mirrors and shelves, which we launched in China during Design Shanghai. This project was created in close collaboration with one of the last woodturners in Vienna together with the Vienna Design Week.

Once the craft of kings, woodturning has slowly become forgotten. Spending many hours in the workshop alongside the craftsman to understand the intricate process, we realized that the woodturner is able to create perfectly curved shapes that seamlessly fit into one another without use of digital tools, solely working from experience and feeling.

We saw this as an opportunity to explore woodturning as a form of joinery, comparable with joints in the human body, to create movable lights and mirrors.

Cutting Edge is an installation to create sofas based on hot-wire cutting. Based on the idea of seeing movement as liquid form, we created a large-scale cutting machine to capture the moment of making and directly translate them into a permanent shape. Starting out with a solid block of foam, a series of hot wires are used for carving all sides of the sofa. They can be placed in endless compositions and act as a bespoke blueprint for every new piece. These sofas are coated with a durable rubber coating, which allows them to be placed permanently outdoors.

Duo reviving the craft of kings
L. Hilzensauer / Ti Gong

Bulbous hanging light

What project are you currently involved in?

Our current design research focusses on fostering a symbiotic relationship between local Chinese craftsmanship and the rising industrial sector. This research topic links back to our Bulbous collection, which was created in collaboration with an Austrian woodturner.

Our intentions are not to just create well-made artefacts, but to challenge crafts(wo)men, the manufacturing industry and us as designers, to seek for alternative and original outcomes for new arising markets and to push the design discipline.

Describe your design style.

The outcomes our studio produces are quite diverse.

We work within the field of experimental object design, but also engage with social topics through developing educational programs with well-known cultural institutions. However, our starting point is always the context the project sits within, working closely with crafts, materials, manufacturers and users, trying to capture the moment an object or outcome is created.

Where are you most creative?

We use our relaxing time to travel, observe and collect all kinds of inspiration.

This is then transformed into real ideas when working under pressure by following strict deadlines.

What does your home mean to you?

As long as we can have inspiring friends, nature and a place to make and try out ideas, home has been numerous places.

What do you collect?

Objects that have been only half-finished – at the stage where the raw material has begun to be something, but can still become anything.

What will be the next big design trend?

The pandemic has shown the world that it doesn't matter where you are as long you are connected.

We believe that on one hand there will be a huge digitalization merged with reality such as virtual design exhibitions and on the other hand there will be a growth into "nostalgic" seeking for grounded and handcrafted objects. 

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