Since first presenting his scrap-wood cabinets in the early nineties Piet Hein Eek has come a long way. His company (Eek & Ruijgrok BV) now owns an old factory-building at a (for design) prime location in Eindhoven.
Upon entering the factory, be prepared to be submerged in a 'Piet Hein Eek-world': not only does it serve as a workshop to produce his designs; its gigantic multi-story interior leaves enough space to house a gallery, a restaurant and a shop. It could be seen as a 'design clubhouse' and is a favorite hangout of many during the yearly Dutch Design Week.
Eeks' businesslike approach of design didn't go down well with his critical fellow-designers at first. The last two decades Dutch design especially sold well in international galleries, which resulted in many designers rather calling themselves 'artists' than 'businessmen', while designing 'pieces' instead of 'products'.
For years design schools trained their students to focus on concept rather than production or sales. It resulted in a hand-full of design-graduates being picked up by gallerists and (usually successfully) catapulted onto the international design-art stage, while the remaining 95% of young designers comes out of school with an education that taught them how to design well, but not how to actually make money with it.
Coming back to Piet Hein Eek:
His work is usually playful, not overly complicated, but focussing on showcasing and celebrating crafty construction and the beauty of rawness.
All his designs share a distinct Piet Hein Eek-style that you either like or don't -I happen to like it-, either way he deserves credit for showing us that a focus on business doesn't need to get in the way of delivering great designs.
To draw this thing to a conclusion (although there is still a lot left to be said): whether you like his style or not, designers as well as design schools can learn a lot from the way Piet Hein Eek is running his business.
If at all possible I will make sure to be sitting front row at his next lecture,
|Crisis desk in wood and duropal|
|7-sons Crisis desk in wood|
|Showcase in oak wood and glass|
|Fluorescent lamp in copper|
|Construction cabinet in steel|
|Silver-plated brass jugs|
All photographs in this post are courtesy of Piet Hein Eek.
Visit his website for more work, news, information about exhibitions, the shop and the restaurant, and everything else the company's involved in.