Within the peaceful side-streets of Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg, between slivers of spring sunshine, we sat with Georgian-born designer Ia Kutateladze at her studio, for an illuminating conversation about her multidisciplinary, material-driven practice.
You might define Ia’s approach by her consistent compulsion to explore the new. It was through this openness to exploration that she first discovered the path of design.
“[Design] wasn’t really a thing I was drawn to in my teenage years... I went to America to study, and when I started I was thinking more about psychology. But then I was taking some design classes and some art classes and they kind of struck me. I realized then that it’s what I wanted to do, and now I can’t imagine my life without this.”
And so Ia followed her creative instincts down the path of product design. She initially worked in a more traditional product design workflow, but upon moving to Berlin, she felt compelled to reevaluate her process.
“In Georgia I was doing more product design with a kind of logical process. Basically designing an object and then working with artisans to produce it. When I moved here, the production process of outsourcing was a bit difficult — so I started working with the materials myself. It’s a whole different kind of approach and it’s changed a lot for me because now I experiment much more.”
I wondered how Ia developed her unique style.
“It derives from the materials. I think this self-exploration with materials — the experimentation — I think that kind of defines my aesthetic... I use this raw, black clay, for example, that I guess kind of unifies the look of the work.”
Ia’s objects drift between art and design. Which raises the question of whether there is any particular title or identity which she feels is appropriate to encompass her practice.
“I don’t think so, just because now I’m touching a lot of different fields of the creative world. It makes everything so much more exciting to merge everything together. I would never call myself a ceramic artist, for example, or a jewellery designer. I would just say a creative person who likes to explore.”
What’s the most important part of your process? I asked.
“Being honest while expressing. I cannot compromise that, ever… Nowadays there’s so much stuff on the internet that it’s hard to find your voice, visually or mentally, through all of this stuff that comes into your system constantly… I think it’s also really, really important for me to stay true to myself and not just create stuff that I think would sell well.”
“It’s really important to listen to yourself and not to make boxes around yourself of how you’re supposed to work, and just going with the flow of what it is that you’re in the mood for at that moment. Maybe you want some structure? But sometimes you want more chaos. So it’s just responding to yourself.”
Ia then spoke about the relationship she’s seeking to develop between product design and ‘craft’.
“Product design is more precise. More production-oriented. Craft is more intimate, I find, because you’re really working with your hands and with product design, you don’t have to do that. So I think I’m super excited about finding this meeting point between the two, because I like artworks that are still functional, but then art at the same time.”
“Most of the time each piece is unique, and so against mass production. Very intimate, very personal… Throughout the process you find exactly what works for you. And I think I like to make sure to keep something functional, but at the same time give it a lot of character.”
I wondered how this travel-restricted previous year affected Ia’s inspiration.
“When you’re moving and you’re travelling, you see different things and you’re taking in elements of inspiration. So in this sense, because everything was so still, I really went inside of myself and found inspiration within, rather than from external factors.”
I was interested to learn where Ia finds the most enjoyment in her practice.
“I really enjoy the spontaneity and intuitiveness of the process. A lot of times I don’t plan it and I have no idea what I’m doing. Then, once I start working with the material, the shape comes. I really, really love that. Just being in the moment without any pre-planned kind of directions.”
“It’s really meditative. It speaks to you in a lot of ways until you’re super present and nothing exists around you. It’s much more exciting and pleasurable to get that sense of being in the moment and not having this technical drawing… But at the same time, I do have a lot of sketches and it’s also super exciting when it’s something you’ve been thinking about for a couple of weeks with a clear image of what you want and then you do it. That’s a really exciting feeling.”
Thank you to Ia. You can find her links below.
Ia wears the Benja Dress in Grey Viscose.
Words & photography by Ewan Waddell.