Untitled Story is a new homeware brand created by Parisian designer Marc Schulthess. Objects are part of our life experience and souvenir and each Untitled Story object carry an unfinished story to become a medium of our story. Each object can be appropriated by anyone to write its own story. Marc Schulthess’ field of investigation within his practice is broad with a vivid interest in arts, especially sculpture and architecture, and experimentation with materials.
For those that don’t know Marc Schulthess, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
I am a product designer sharing my time between London, Paris and Berlin, and draw my inspiration from spending time between those 3 cities. I designed for interior, from small home accessories to bigger furniture and bespoke lighting and furniture. I created in 2014, Untitled Story, which is a maison d’édition for young designers. It bring to market design at accessible prices. It aims to design very efficient items, not just in the functional aspect but in the way it will add that little thing missing to make a space exciting. It is yet always trying to remain humble. Objects under that brand have the ability to blend in with various style, and live well with some vintage items, and resist the test of time.
What is the story behind your creations?
It is the story of items that can become part of his-story/her-story. I always had a strong interest for visual arts, including theatre, Opera etc.. I see my creations as ‘props’, that will become the medium for the story/history for people getting in contact with them.
“I see my creations as ‘props’, that will become the medium for the story/history for people getting in contact with them.”
The main difference with props is that they my creation are real object and not illusions of an object for a stage, eg. metal is metal and not card painted to look like metal. On that extend the engineering and functional aspect of the creation must also be considered. I think that approach has become even more relevant in the era of selfies and everything photo. There is an increased need and desire for people to be able to create that environment to stage themselves.
What's the highlight feature of your creation?
When I create something, I try to build a mini realm, an object that can help people think about something else, make them see the world differently. I am not a big fan of ornaments unless it has a function, whether practical or help tell a story.
“When I create something, I try to build a mini realm, an object that can help people think about something else, make them see the world differently.“
It is important to try to be as effective as possible with as little as possible. Resources are limited. In that way you have a genuine object, honest and humble and avoid any masquerade.
What does your creations say about you? How does it represent / reflect your personality and thoughts as a creator?
My creations, I hope says more about the world, than they do about myself. An artist or a designer works with its sensibility to create an object, whether it is tangible or intangible outcome. In that extend I see it as part of a non rational part of a mathematical formula. The result of that equation is the artwork/design. That result will help people to understand or see aspect of life, world, society..in a different way.
Untitled Hooks are inspired by the natural world, specifically trees and the contrast found between the bark exterior and trunk interior. The bark is replaced by a colour, with each hook hand-carved to a shape reminiscence of drawing pencils.
What do you feel are your label's main principles and ideals? And in what way has that translated into your work, the way you operate?
I really dislike nostalgia and conservatism. I am interested in History to understand to understand and invent the now and then. But living in history is creating a simulacrum and feels somehow wrong to me.
“I really dislike nostalgia and conservatism. I am interested in History to understand to understand and invent the now and then.”
As a designer I do not understand the point of designing a sofa which is some knock off of Finn Juhl’s poet sofa for instance (they are a lot of them nowadays). In the postmodern era, design will and must borrow elements from the past, but it must be put together in a way that create something different. That is my motto and will work as hard as possible towards that goal.
What for you really defines your label and why do you feel your customer opts to buy the products you make?
The most important is to have genuine products. It is very important to stay away from doing knock off or what everyone does and hope that what customers like about the brand!
Can you share with us a little known detail about the design process that you have discovered?
I draw inspiration from anything, arts in its various form, travelling, reading, science etc etc. It is important to look beyond his own field to find inspiration and create something fresh, otherwise it is a bit using the air con in recycling mode where you end up breathing diluted air! I am currently working on a range of lighting, called dark matter. I was watching a documentary on Arte which made me want to explore that theme. We actually know only 5% of what the universe is made of. We ignore what the 95% other percent is, it is called dark matter, it is not made of atoms or anything we know, which challenge the theory of relativity modern physics is built on. It gives quite an interesting concept to work from for defining object and how they materialise in the space….
Can you tell us about the materials you use? where do you source them? did you experiment with others?
I have been working quite a bit with concrete and had a particular affections for metal for some years now. That is quite visible in the last products that came out in the recently. When I was a student at Central St Martins, I went to the metal workshop to do few bits. That workshop was always the least busy as other students preferred to agglomerate in the wood workshop. As a consequence I ended up spending more time there as the technician were so happy to have someone curious around.
“The many possibilities to finish the metal surfaces offer such a rich vocabularies and is quite fascinating.”
That is how I discovered and fell in love with steel, aluminium, copper, brass. I love the fact that metal is a 100% recycle material with no lost of its quality, unlike wood that can not be recycled and can only be downgraded into MDF. Metal is also a very precise material, allowing very thin surfaces and small details. That result are very elegant and durable products, nothing is ever superfluous, it is a true material. The many possibilities to finish the metal surfaces offer such a rich vocabularies and is quite fascinating. Finally I mainly use steel, and when there are weight requirements like for chandelier, aluminium is a better option. I only use aluminium when technically necessary due to its higher environmental impact related to the bauxite extraction.
How is it made?
The difference between a designer and an artist is the functionality of the object. Some designers like them to be purely functional (with the danger of becoming a bit gadgety or very ugly), some designers like them to have a more narrative aspect to it, with the danger of becoming bad diluted Art. As a good economist nothing is black or white but grey. Hence my process is a a mix of both. I often decide to create a new piece of furniture because I can not find anything suitable on the market. I aim to design objects that are ergonomic enough, but that still carry a story, or historical / contextual reference. The object designed under the ‘Studio Marc Schulthess’ brand are more collectable and narrative one. Untitled Story objects are more utilitarian and commercial object, which are functional and practical and will be the so called ‘props’ for your story to be created.
Do you look to innovate or experiment with new forming and finishing techniques with each new collection, or is there a traditional process you adhere to?
There are no agenda or precise process that will be launched with each collection. I am constantly experimenting and trying new materials and techniques but a very small portion of products come to market. There is also a strong emphasis on incremental innovation improving the products already in production. Untitled Rail is already in its 3rd version! The Studio Marc Schulthess products are generally handmade batches that are experimenting with new techniques or process. In general with design it is always finding a balance, and making products with possible manufacturing techniques without compromising the original idea.
What were the challenges when designing these?
Production is the hardest bit. It takes lots of time and resources. Especially when you manufacture products in Europe where factories do not deliver a product ‘key in hand’. For instance when manufacturing in China you get a product in its final retail retail packaging, everything is done and ready for you. Products also need to be made in 1000’s making them less unique. In Europe you need to coordinate each production technique yourself which means a much more costly and complex supply chain to manage but at the end you have a locally made product, made in smaller batch with more ‘aura’ to it and you cut the greenhouse emission to get it to travel across half the planet.
Describe your path to becoming designers? Were you surrounded by art and design when you were younger? Was it something you picked up from your family, or did it just mature naturally?
It was quite a bumpy ride and had to be quite persistent to get where I am now. I was forced into study economics after high school as design was not considered as real studies by my high school. After doing my MA in finance, I moved to London and did a degree in design at the Central Saint Martin School. I have not regret as those two type of studies are by nature very different and complementary, with one very theoretical and academic and the other much more hands on and practical. I do not come from a designer/artist family but my mother was keen on having few but nice objects and was always doing cultural thing with me which probably help nourished that side of thing.
How would you define yourself as a designer?
I am quite obsessed about the detailing and proportion aspects of an object. Every curve, line must be drawn with purity. Even a very complex looking object needs to be simple when looked under a microscope. It is like anything in the universe. Everything is different and complex but it is all molecular structure made from simple atoms.
“I am quite obsessed about the detailing and proportion aspects of an object. Every curve, line must be drawn with purity.“
As a creator when are you the happiest, why?
When something I had in my head finally materialise and feels and looked like I projected - which is not always the case for the best and the worst!
What is the untold story of you as a creator in this process?
Life as a creator is 2% creative work and 98% of engineering, manufacturing fine tuning, sales, marketing and admin. That the reality of it but I enjoy pretty much all of it...except maybe for the administrative part.
Image credits: Untitled Story