The art-design interface is a kind of "Ganzheit" (holism)
credit. Kristin Schnell
credit. Kristin Schnell
Jutta Werner draws inspiration from the global market and stands for straightforward, elegant, international design. Her upcycled Candy Wrapper Rug won the GERMAN DESIGN AWARD 2019. Since then, the brand was also listed in 2021 Dezeen Awards, and won the 2021 Green Product Award.
Born in 1969, the designer started her own business after studying architecture at the HFBK Hamburg. She is the head of the interdisciplinary design agency NOMAD Hamburg/Germany and designs worldwide for internationally operating companies such as Dedon, Ligne Roset, JAB Anstoetz and Vorwerk.
NOMAD stands for sustainability and respect: it is a women owned small business, producing in a close and honest partnership with Indian weavers and using recycled materials to protect the environment and support its regeneration. The NOMAD vision is to “produce less, but produce well”. Its costumers are “allies in spirit” and understand that every rug has its own imperfections and narratives which make it a personal, emotional and vibrant piece invented for a life-long relationship.
Can art foster social change - and what role can artists and their work play in this? Is there room for them to take a leading role?
It sounds like a simple question, but in fact it is not.
Yes, even if it sounds arrogant, I believe art has a leading role in society. Yet artists are often locked up in their own bubble. How can art reach people, those who are not touched by art, who don't know much about art? How to build a bridge to find people and touch their hearts? This is the (rather practical) challenge in a process of trying to bring positive change to individuals and society. For me, the art-design interface is a kind of "Ganzheit" (holism). In my opinion, art is a food as necessary as water or bread - whether it is literature, poetry, art installations or video - art seems to me to be essential to life. Simply because it is the expression of feelings, and feelings are the essence of humans. Unlike that, and in principle, design is above all functional: it is there to provide a functionality, a materiality, to make it possible to understand a situation, to answer a gap or a need. So even though I personally use art in my design process, it is only a small part of the process. For example, the cover of NOMAD's catalogue shows a circle on a white background. The circle is a symbol of finitude, like the chapters of a life coming together. NOMAD rugs also embody the poetry of waste, fair trade and respect for the weavers... In the end, all these "feelings" are transmitted in and through the product to reach and touch the final consumer.
In the face of the radical upheavals and crises of our time, can we still hope for a better future? And what impact might "narrative" have on this future's construction process?
Of course, we have to hope for a better future. As far as narratives are concerned, I think in the past we were lucky enough to be guided by the tales of our own families. That was the common thread to follow. Then, as we grew up, we could break free and start our own story. But today, there are so many different stories, we are so overwhelmed with tons of multi-faceted information, it leads to a lot of confusion, especially for the younger ones. The question is: can we still construct our own narratives out of such complexity? I think this is the new challenge, and that it will contribute to forging a better future for the new generations. In fact, in our latest NOMAD communications, we have chosen to share the ideas of people who inspire us. But I thought that maybe I could also be a source of inspiration for others. This is my vision of a better world, a world where we live as one, where we support each other more, rather than fighting each other in ever fiercer competition. In this respect, a better world is a matter of individual responsibility.
What might be the premises of a transdisciplinary dialogue (between art, culture and other disciplines) capable of triggering social transformation? In your own work, what expertise or practices could go in the direction of such a transdisciplinarity?
Art, design, creative disciplines... must be easily accessible to the younger generation. This is why I have this project in 2022, to travel the world to show my rugs. The idea is to pursue the philosophical discussions that take place when visitors come to the NOMAD showroom (in Hamburg, Germany). It's more than just about beautiful design and a sustainable product. It's about questioning: what is a good life? What is the meaning of art, fashion, design? How do we develop as a person? Most NOMAD clients feel this special "energy" from the rugs. I guess it's not only from the quality of materials, but also from the intangible, whether it's the spirit of the brand, the respect for our artisans, or any other value chain we are proud to bring into the process...
Assuming it is possible to build a better world on the ruins of the old one - what do you think it might look like? What would you wish for a better world?
Funny question ... We should be thankful that we live in our time. For me, the world is not ruined. I even think that we live in one of the best times ever. Nevertheless, awareness and interest in otherness, other cultures, other tribes, other lands and know-how are crucial for me, especially in my thinking process. In this regard, as most of NOMAD's weavers are in India, I go there quite often to spend time with the locals. And I have learned a lot, especially about how to abandon a purely European-centric view and behaviour. One day, one of the Indian weavers warned me: "Maybe it is us - the Europeans - who should be helped". Maybe we should learn better some common rules of life: how to love, how to share, how to feel and how to add a certain degree of looseness in our lives.
It's often said that artists (and creative people) have this unique ability to endlessly search for the new, to start from scratch over and over again. When you start a new project, what strategies or rituals do you personally use?
I try to listen to music, to others, I love to travel… There are so many sources of inspirations in the world. And most of all, when I start a new project, I just need some free time to do nothing. This is very important to me. It enables me to digest what I’ve seen, read or discovered. While I am, precisely at the moment, in the process of finding new materials, the main thing in the process is to find silence.
The interview was conducted in December 2021.