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“Sketchbook” From Zimmer + Rohde Channels The Creative Flash Of Artistic Inspiration

Stefan Gabel, creative director of Zimmer + Rohde, joins us this week to discuss the design process behind the “Sketchbook” collection of textiles. According to Gabel, “There are many types of sketching: planned sketching in the studio in an artist’s book, scribbling in small notebooks when traveling or on loose pieces of paper that fit in your jacket pocket… They have one thing in common: They perpetuate the creative flash of inspiration. This collection is dedicated to this brief moment, as well as to its manifold manifestations in the form of dots, lines, bundles of lines, hatching, brushstrokes and spots of color – spontaneously put on paper.”

Raymond Paul Schneider: When did you first start to develop this new collection?
Stefan Gabel: Beginning of 2021, after my team and I had collected far too many ideas on this very intuitive collection theme, it was time to get more concretely involved in the development of designs and materials.

Raymond: What was the overall timeline from conception to achieving the final design?
Stefan: It takes a full year to develop the signature designs that give a collection its face. What may not be as widely known is that the plains are often more time-consuming fabrics to develop. They require multiple trials and subtle adaptations until you achieve the desired quality. Since we launch new collections for Zimmer + Rohde twice a year, the development phases overlap. It can happen that a new development is pushed to the next collection if it is not yet perfect. Of course, this is only possible with essentials that can be universally applied to work across multiple collections.

Raymond: What was your initial inspiration, and where did the idea(s) come from?
Stefan: The life’s work of almost every artist includes a collection of sketchbooks and preliminary drawings of what will become a major painting. These very intimate insights into a respective artist’s world and thought process have always interested me, almost more than the large finished paintings themselves, because of their spontaneity and expressiveness. They reveal the process behind the art, and according to Goethe, speak directly to the spirit, without intellectually circuitous detours. This specific genre was a source of endless inspiration for us –the planned formal sketching in a studio, in an artist’s workbook, scribbles on a journey in small sketch pads or on loose scraps of paper. From sketching nocturnal inspirations on a notepad next to the bed to the classic white napkin in a restaurant, we were endlessly inspired.

Raymond: Please describe your overall creative and design process.
Stefan: In order to translate the desired imperfection and unrestrained artistic energy of our inspirations in a manner that was as pure as possible, my team and I resolved not to follow a fixed plan, and instead followed our intuition exclusively.

Raymond: Did you have a specific audience or theme that you had in mind?
Stefan: This collection is all about appreciating originality and artistic expression. A spontaneous sketch can immortalize the creative flash of genius. It is in this short moment that ‘Sketchbook’ is dedicated to, when a myriad of manifestations take form: in the shape of dots, lines, hatching, brush marks and color splotches all spontaneously transferred onto paper. Textiles are responsible for the feeling of softness and warmth in a living space. Their appearance can vary like no other; depending on the light, the atmosphere and a fabric’s inherent liveliness. In this way, the fabric, and therefore the collection, takes on a role in the interior space that a sketchbook would in an exhibition.

Raymond: Please describe the methods, tools, and materials you used to develop and prototype this design?
Stefan: An important aspect for all Zimmer + Rohde collections is that we mainly use hand-painted or hand-drawn artworks as models for our final designs. An enormous amount of attention was poured into the translation onto fabric of these original sketches and color studies, selecting the manufacturing techniques that best express the specific character of the artwork. In this respect, the close collaboration with our manufacturers is extremely valuable. As mentioned, we followed our instincts when selecting various manufacturing techniques, and feel this is particularly evident in the GRAND LEAVES design.

Raymond: Did you utilize a new technique or technology to conceptualize this product?
Stefan: For GRAND LEAVES (pictured above) we brilliantly combined several production techniques. First the colorful, expressive painting was digitally printed on to finely-threaded and dense warp threads. With this warp printing technique, the warp threads shift slightly in relation to each other during weaving, resulting in an intentionally blurred color effect. This effect is especially apparent on the outer edges of the painted leaf shapes. Then a jacquard technique is used to combine the printed painting with an abstract silhouette pattern. The positioning of the two design steps in relation to each other is deliberately left to chance. This creates surprising overlays that are always changing.

Raymond: Please describe any challenges that affected the design and perhaps steered you to an entirely new final design?
Stefan: We took a more playful approach to realizing our ideas for this collection. The role of adjustment and optimization to achieve the best possible fabric result was a natural part of the development process. Through this rather experimental and partly open-ended approach, we have made chance our ally. This gives the collection as a whole its spontaneity and its unique expression of craftsmanship. You can see this very well in one of our new fabrics called GRAFFITI, an organic overlapping line drawing that has been translated into dense all-over embroidery. In order to reproduce the hand-drawn character as authentically as possible, three different embroidery threads were used in various thicknesses and with varying textures.

Raymond: Describe your overall brand DNA and Ethos
Stefan: Founded in 1899, tradition and experience mark every step that Zimmer + Rohde takes to continually offer exclusive furnishing, innovative design and expert advice. We honor the legacy of consistent craftsmanship while advancing into the future, to explore new techniques. We always try to find the right balance between artistic craftsmanship and customer needs to progress the performance of our products. I personally feel very happy when we succeed to bring to life the dreams of designers and homeowners.

Click here to see more of our “Anatomy of a Design” series.

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