The essence of materials is constantly sought in the work of the German designer Carsten in der Elst (b. 1992 Düsseldorf). Based in Cologne, he finished his Design studies in 2020 and immediately started his studio practice by continuing his graduation project Heavy Duty. His work focuses on making materials hybrid using industrial by products. Through physical labor and obsessive attention to detail, he connects with the material, transforming the discarded pieces into unique and beautiul shapes, allowing the materials to behave differently. The material dictates the design.
For his first project, Heavy Duty, the designer recalled how the squander of energy and natural materials dedicated to industrial processes mostly serve to end up producing waste matter. Through traditional craftsmanship and his zero-waste approach, he approached materials such as forged steel and shotcrete and returned them to their own universe. Soft Works was a continuation of his first project, using the same concept but different elements, such as cork, silicone and leftover mattresses. In der Elst is dedicated to finding the locations and origins of materials, in order to tame them whilst preserving their essence and natural processes.
His work reminds us that there is beauty in components that have been considered less worthy and condemned to decay, beliving they deserve investigation. A essentail part of in der Elst’s practice is the documentation of the creative process, or his communication and findings with the materials. For the designer, the material guides the making process, instead of being subservient to an idea, he considers himself a servant of the materials. His constant question: does this design decision do justice to the nature of the material, or does it become torture?
Both projects have been exhibited at the 3 Days of Design festival in Copenhagen. Now, the designer is focusing on his Graywacke Offcut project, for which he has recovered the rubble from a quarry, creating a series in which each piece is embodied with the same Graywacke stone, but finds its own personality, through form and structure.
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