Sandra Keja Planken, founder of Studio Noun Amsterdam, describes herself as an ‘autodidact artist and designer’. Her creations focus on bold, sustainable designs with a sense of playfulness and are inspired by nature—animal and human bodies. Her textile work was recently on display at Object Rotterdam in a solo show called ‘All Eyes on the World’, which featured many of her statement rug designs such as The Yellow Untitled nr. 1—a wall rug that aims to brighten interiors ‘like the morning sun’—and The Lips—a bold huggable design for the wall or floor. Some of the rugs—which are produced in collaboration with a Dutch and Polish tufting studio—will be on show during Milan Design Week in September at the Isola Design Gallery. Here Planken talks to COVER Editor Lucy Upward.
What inspires the designs and how do they relate to your other work?
The designs I create are nature and human inspired either in colour or form and start with an intuitive painting or collage from my hand. Much of this is a reflection of my life and creative atelier, Studio Noun Amsterdam, where I test ideas between the boundaries of traditional craft, design and art. I like to add depth and boldness to a space, so my schemes are pretty confident. All my works (interior or product) have amorphous bold silhouettes and a crisp note, from graphic wall hangings and softly curved tuft chairs to the fluid shape of the table and the angular lines of pendant lighting.
How would you describe your use of colour?
I try to think of a product and rug colour scheme like a painting. There are actually very few clashing colours within paintings, despite their tonal diversity. I find that yellow oranges, reds and greens do work brilliantly together but the key is to link them, through softening touches with eucalyptus tencel wool and bamboo. A primary colour alone can feel too aggressive, but as part of a layered approach, it can really add interest.
How important is sustainability to your work?
With the rugs from my exhibition ‘All Eyes on the World’ at Object I obviously wanted to make a statement. So yes, sustainability is important, but I do not shout the message. People need to like the work for its design and then get the message it’s possible in sustainable ways. As a studio I have been working on space and product design in sustainable ways for 10 years now.
All my own products are sustainably produced from materials to production processes and craftsmanship. Lamps made out of recycled textiles, tables out of leftover pipes and wood and rugs made from soft tencel eucalyptus yarns and bamboo. All other products I use in interior design co-habit with ease with found or vintage items, design classics and my own multi-media pieces, including my rugs and wall-hangings. They always sit side-by-side with commissioned one-offs from myself or small makers.
I do not claim to be 100% sustainable but I do actively strive to reduce the environmental impact, demonstrating that sustainable colourful and sculptural products and designs can be achieved.
What are your rug plans for the future?
Yes! I am currently working on a big piece of 10 x 5m . A blue wave of colours with loops cuts and knots. With this I am working on a more masculine influenced nature theme—for the other works have a big and bright feminine touch. Rugs will always be in the plans for the future. But mostly I am looking for new forms with rugs, wool or other materials. At Object I recently launched my tufted chair, an example where function, form, wool and art meet in new ways. I used and old chair, old rain pvc pipes and the long yarns from my earlier lips rug work have been applied with lesser height difference to create the ultimate chair that embraces and hugs you back—I think you call it anthropomorphic.
In September during Milan Design Week some of my earlier works (like the lips chair and rug) and my new tufted clouds and tufted pottery will be shown. I aim to blend the boundaries between art and design by approaching object from another perspective with huggable arty pieces.