Despite their busy design week schedule, we managed to catch up with Katharina Mischer and Thomas Traxler to discuss cakes, rumkugelbahns, compromise and collaborations.
Core77: How did the Rumkugelbahn come about for Vienna Design Week?
Mischer'Traxler: Actually the Rumkugelbahn is old work that we originally did for the DMY Berlin this year. In the installation are different pieces of work by designers and manufacturers from Vienna., created during previous Vienna Design Weeks. It is actually an exhibition display to promote and advertise the Vienna Design Week, to encourage people to come and visit.
We originally made a smaller version around Christmas time and installed it into a bed frame and originally thought about using cookies, but the rum truffles worked well. The Neigungsgruppe Design group asked us if we would do another version for the Berlin Design week, which is what we then installed into the MAKshop. We really enjoyed making it, thinking on a bigger scale and working out what the ball could do in the run that would incorporate as many products as possible. It was really good fun and actually really successful. It brought people to the installation; they would stop and look, but not realise they are looking at the pieces as they are watching and waiting for the ball to come through. Many people afterwards would approach us and ask about the work, "Who made the vase... the pots?" We did not really expect people would actually look at the work so intensely and be so interested.
Sketches of the Till You Stop Cake Icing Machine, top, and the machine installed into the Design Criminals exhibition, pictured bottom.
C77: There are quite a few kinetic devices in your work, was this your starting point for the Design Criminal exhibition at the MAKVienna? (see earlier post)
MT: Quite often we do somehow include machines in our work, it is not always the focus and it's not that we want to build another machine that is kinetic. For the Design Criminals show, the brief written by Sam Jacob was about Adolf Loos and his Ornament and Crime essay. We read the whole essay, and it was something that enabled us to start looking and working with these professions that do it daily and often without thinking about it, hairdressers, confectioners, tattooists. We actually really wanted to reflect ornament and how much people actually think about it and whether the amount that they think is enough or not. So we thought about building a device that would enable people to decide: When is there enough decoration and ornament? Do they like more or less? We did not plan to build a machine, but it was really a way to pose these questions; so people could decide when is enough and act on that decision.
One case study of family using the Till You Stop Cake Icing machine, top, and an example of a finished cake on MAKNite.
C77: How did the three case studies work out when they used the icing machine?
MT: When the children used the machine, we were expecting they would wait a really long time and enjoy the whole process but actually after 3 rotations of the cake they said 'No,stop it'. Actually after one rotation they said 'No, it's enough', and we were like 'Are you sure?' and the mum decided she wanted more. So it was the most minimal cake of all of them, yet we thought it would be the most exaggerated one and that they would be curious about looking at it. In fact, they actually did not have any patience. It was very interesting to see their reactions and how they differed from the other people.
The Relumine prototype lamp for the Bulb Fiction show, top and their initial sketches of the Lamp, pictured bottom.
C77: How did you first meet and how do you find working together?
MT: We met when we studied on the Product &Furniture Design course in St.Poelten. It was a cooperative course between Kingston University and Austria, but they closed the Austrian course after us.
We decided to make a project together after the first year, became a couple as well, and continued working together. We always helped each other out when we started doing projects. We each had opposite interests, yet somehow merged them through discussion. Each time we gained from each other's point of view. Sometimes, we have very different approaches but we still have the same interests, it really works well when we bring both sides in unison. It's a good placement.
C77: How did you decide to work together and start your studio?
MT: We did some projects together for an interior designer that worked out well. We then graduated from the Eindhoven course and decided to work together as a studio. Our MA in Eindhoven enabled us to really think differently and gave us the confidence to apply it to our working approach.
When we graduated we thought we'd give it a try as and see if it would work out. We were used to having nothing and at the time we thought that if we don't try it now we would probably not risk it again later and regret it. We both thought we would not get a job where we would be allowed to do the things we really enjoyed. We thought we would always have to compromise. So we decided to first try it out and concentrate on our interests and do are own projects and if that didn't work out look to work differently.
C77: How do you go about trying to communicate your interests with companies, in particular with the traditional Viennese silverware company you worked with last year?
MT: For last year's Passionswege we worked with Rozet & Fischmeister, a very traditional silverware company that used to serve the kings and queens. The senior manager of the company was more interested in encouraging his son to work with us on the project. The son at the same time was offered an apprenticeship at Cartier. As he was not always there, we had to find a way to come up with a project. They gave us a lot of freedom and helped us finish our final pieces. It turned out to be a good collaboration and, luckily, our favourite idea was also theirs.
The Scientific Nature of Jewellery installation was the result of mischer'traxler's collaboration with Vienna based silverware company Rozet & Fischmeister.
C77: What was your approach when you collaborated with them?
MT: In the beginning we had a long discussion with the company and they mentioned that although they are recognized as producing silverware they wanted to return to the jewellery they used to make 100 years or so ago. So we made an installation about jewellery in their shop window called "The Scientific Nature of Jewellery."
As we are not jewellery designers, we thought this might become tricky but the technicians at the company worked with us and actually created two necklaces as part of the installation. They explained all the steps that are involved in the production and we realized how intricate and complex the processes were to create jewellery. We focused on three themes that are needed to create jewellery designs. The patience and the time spent; the technical knowledge and the details; and fine craftsmanship. For our installation, we tried to create three pieces that would each represent these three major themes of jewellery production.
C77: Do you use that kind of approach with other projects?
MT: When working on briefs for other companies or organisations we work out what they would ideally like to have and we then put our idea on top of that idea. Rozet & Fischmeister wanted to make jewellery. It was not our starting point, yet that was important for them.
We want to help companies create a better future vision. We try to see it from their point of view to help them generate something new and help them see the potential for approaching their vision from a different point of view. Some people don't always want this, though. We tried to let Rozet & Fischmeister see it from our point of view and they understood it was a good opportunity for them to show themselves. Whatever we introduce should help both sides and show the organization new directions. They should have the advantage in working with us.
C77: What are you influenced by and what are your intentions when working on projects?
MT: We hope our work communicates the way we think about our practice and the role of design. We are interested in the wider systems behind how objects, people and environments interact and affect each other.
We want our projects to leave a thought with the audience, but also entice them with the visual aesthetic of the object. We want them to be encouraged to investigate further and, in doing so, ask more about the object or installation and the systems it sits within.
We don't necessarily have any particular influences in why we do certain work but we will always argue whether there is a reason it should exist. It has to be discussed, and we have to decide together whether it is worth putting the work out there.
C77: What is next for mischer'traxler?
MT: We are interested in getting some part-time teaching jobs, not specifically to supplement our income but we think it is good for both sides; the teachers as well as the students.
We have worked on a number of systems and installations and used objects to discuss that system. We are now interested in focusing more on developing a product and also working on some commissioned consultancy jobs.