Julie Kenney reports back on Day 2 of the Design Indaba:

One of the most anticipated talks of the Design Indaba yesterday was the young Dutch designer Maarten Baas, whose surreal and charming creations earned him the 2009 Design Miami Young Designer of the Year Award.


photo from Dezeen blog

For a designer who challenges people to rethink design, Baas began his talk in typical fashion, saying that he reworked his entire speech the night before to “get out of his comfort zone”.

Baas is inspired largely by nature, appreciating its irregularity and movement. In contrast, he held up various “Superman” products that exist today, from classic design pieces to cheap knock-offs that continue to be manufactured because they are low-risk products for industries.

His ‘Smoke’ series of charred chairs, his graduation project from the Design Academy Eindhoven in 2002, was his breakthrough project. With an irreverence that has become his trademark, he burned design icons – antique chairs and classic designs by Gaudi, Eames and Rietveld – and then epoxy-coated them and covered some in leather. Three of these works have been reproduced by Marcel Wanders’ international design company, Moooi.


For his next project, Maarten said he wanted to return to the “universal beauty of children’s art”. And so the Clay series was born: furniture made from synthetic clay that appears warped and clumsy.



Baas told the audience that he doesn’t like to sketch his designs on computers first – he makes them up from scratch using actual materials. He spoke of “an urgency” that he feels when creating a new work – “If I don’t design this particular product, then no one else will, and that would be a shame.”

Mindful of the exclusive nature of his pieces, Baas decided to make something more accessible for the Milan Fair in 2010. He launched an iPhone app of his ‘Analog Digital Clock’, which mimics the large red numbers of bed-side alarm clocks but shows a person moving the components of the numbers around to changes the time.


Check out more from this playful young designer at  his website.