Above: Essences Bench

Anna Iwansson and Régis Lemberthe of a&ré design were one of the first to submit their work to our first Show & Sell event on Dec. 4th. After we gave their website the once over we instantly fell for their rough yet refined products. Their thoughtful use of recycled materials was different than many other submissions. Not only do the found materials add the visual aesthetic they are also used in the hidden, structural elements adding extra function and durability. Their pieces are built to perfection but not so refined as to eradicate the story behind each found item.

Please start by telling us a bit about yourselves, your design/educational histories,
and how you got started working together?

We studied industrial design together in France. Anna had already graduated from the design section in the Beaux-Arts by then, and I was to continue my education in Design Academy Eindhoven. We moved there together,  and a year later to Amsterdam where we started working with concrete. Back in France, we kept developing those projects in a proper workshop, and founded a&ré design.


Above: Pack & Bag One-Off Vases

Above: Jewels

Why do you focus on the use of concrete in your pieces?
What inspired you to go for this type of material when you first started?

Anna discovered concrete while working with Amsterdam-based designer Baukje Trenning, who mainly works on architectural elements. Soon enough, she grew interest towards this material, and started thinking of other ways to work with it. She was quite communicative in her enthusiasm; in no time we decided to give concrete a special place in our work.

What are the benefits, in your opinion, of using found objects in addition to concrete?
And where do you find most of it?

Concrete is mostly perceived as a very rigid, cold material, while scrap wood, aged metal and fallen leaves seem to convey a story, or to add some cachet. The contrast between both is one of our main interests. The materials we work with usually come straight from the forest, the street, or are gathered from factories, scrapyards and fleamarkets.


Above: Skyline Candleholders

Above: Insected Candleholders

What are the challenges of using these materials?
Concrete is something we shape almost freely, whereas found materials ask for flexibility. This is something we can turn to our advantage though – being willing to adapt ourselves to the material can lead to new, original ideas. One of our priorities is to use scrap material as a structural element, rather than a merely decorative one. This is quite obvious in the Essences bench, which raw wood is being processed in order to create modular pieces, that only conserve traces of former uses on one side.

You have a studio in Toulouse as well as Berlin.
How could you explain the different vibes of each city?

Our Toulouse studio is actually not in the city, but in the Dordogne countryside. This is crucial for inspiration, we need this bound with nature, and the abundance of materials we find therein. Berlin on the other hand, brings us an extra insight into all the newest creative developments. Both combine well somehow, we get a fair mix of nature and culture.


Above: Pack & Bag One-Off Vases

Above: Jewel Pendants

Can you briefly explain how you create one of your concrete/found-object pieces step-by-step?
There is no rule, the initial design can either result from thinking about the concrete part, or a specific object we find. Developing the project, on the other hand, requires a constant adaptation to the constraints imposed by each material. For the Essences bench, we had to rethink the concrete part according to the materials we found; we also had to define an appropriate way to process the scrap wood so that it not only fits but strengthen the concrete modules. In the end, it’s continually going back and forth until we find the right balance. And, even when we think we have it, we discover new issues that need be tackled.

What’s the single most important piece of advice you can offer to those who are trying to make a living by selling their design creations?
Probably, what helps most in this case is to find other professionals who work along the same line. Doing so brings both opportunities and motivation.

A selection of a&ré’s work, including the Essences bench, the one-off vases and a selection of candle-holders will be exhibited and sold at our December 4th event. You can read more about the French design duo on their website.