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Ferréol Babin

Published 26 / 06 / 2017

Ferréol is representative of the new generation designer. First and foremost a designer, he has acquired techniques and particular know-how throughout his career, making him a maker. We discovered him on social networks, in particular thanks to his carved wooden spoons. Where does he draw all his creativity from? Quite simply in a multidisciplinary approach. We spoke with him about his relationship in Japan, the creative process, Milan Design Week, and his woodworking.

First of all, tell me about your background. How did you get into product design?

I knew from a very young age that creation was my main means of expressing myself. My parents enrolled me in a painting and sculpture studio when I was 6, and I did not come out until I entered Beaux-Arts at 20. First interested in architecture, I quickly realized that this scale did not suit me and no longer allowed me to express myself as freely as with painting or volume. It is therefore natural that the design of objects, at the scale of the hand, appeared obvious.

You also traveled to Japan. What did it bring you in terms of design, values, relationship to materials?

I was fortunate enough to be able to study at Nagoya Art & Design University, and discovered materials, techniques and skills that were unknown to me. I was also admiring their relationship to hand-made, to craftsmanship, constantly present, valued and preserved.

If we follow you on social networks, we can observe many wooden objects including spoons. What do you like about this material? 

It is a material that speaks to me because it is different each time, and constantly forces us to reconsider, observe and understand it. It is not an inert, solid mass like aluminum. Each new piece of wood is a new discovery, with its own history and identity.

Has carving a spoon become commonplace for you today or do you find new sensations each time? 

Not liking to reproduce the same thing twice, no spoon is the same. This allows me to remain free and to let myself be surprised by the end result each time.

You also had the privilege of participating in Habitat's “Design Lab” last March, as well as developing a partnership with designer Naoto Fukasawa for Milan Design Week. How do these collaborations bring you? Is it important in your creative process to have a framework and constraints or do you prefer to work in complete freedom? 

The fact of inaugurating the new Habitat Design Lab concept gave me great visibility, especially since it was the first time that I exhibited and shared my work with wooden spoons. The challenge was also to show that today a designer is no longer just a designer or a draftsman, but can also be a manufacturer, plastic artist, craftsman. Borders are blurred, even erased. The exhibition led by Naoto Fukasawa was also a great experience, because of my deep respect for this designer, and for the opportunity to be invited to exhibit at Milan Design Week.

You also created “Everyday Ceremony”, an installation made up of 20 different species of wood. Is it important for you to show and promote all these types of wood?

The important thing was to find the right balance between a functional and designed object, and a poetic and contemplative object, by placing at the heart of the project the intrinsic beauty of the different wood species. The goal was not to look so much at the object, but to feel its material, its colors, its patterns, its presence.

If you had to give me a single method of woodworking, what would it be and why? 

Work in kogatana. It is a Japanese slicer, probably the most basic tool, but also the most useful and the most versatile.

Do you sometimes work with digital tools such as a CNC?

I use manual tools as much as possible because it is precisely this slow or even tedious hand job that gives me this pleasure. The use of the machine only interests me when it meets a specific need, especially when I design an object for an industrial manufacturer.

Where do you get your inspiration from? 

In everything that surrounds and touches me: nature, the elements, travel.

Your partner is also a designer if I am not mistaken. Does it help you to create? Do you stimulate yourself in your creative process? Have you ever collaborated together on projects around wood? 

We rarely collaborate, and on projects generally related to textiles. I have this deep need to work in autarky and to be the sole master on board. It also implies that I refuse to take an assistant or an intern because I need to be alone. But I do need his gaze, which is different from mine.

You share many photos on social networks, whether they are projects from your studio, personal creations or even home made vegetarian dishes. What do they bring you? 

I made the choice to live in a rather isolated way, close to the ocean, and far from the city because I need space and time. In return, it is important that I communicate about my work, whether to have different feedback, but also to be visible. And I also think that design is for me only one of the facets of the plastic expression that I need. The object design, the creation of unique pieces, the music, the cooking, it forms a whole. Each discipline, each language, communicates to the other and nourishes it. This is why it is important for me to communicate on all these elements with so much importance.

For novices who would like to undertake a profession related to wood, what would you advise them? 

To do, undo, and redo, relentlessly.

On the occasion of OROS market, Ferréol invites us to acquire three of its sculptural spoons: a cherry tree, a small magnolia tree et a bigger one in magnolia also. They were entirely carved by hand with a gouge for the inner part and a kiridashi - Japanese slicer - for the outer part and the handle.