“I deal with things in which I see a meaning. My starting point is always a clear explanation, and that is where the justification of my creations can be found. Function is essential, and if I can’t articulate a good reason for a new product, then it’s better not to create it in the first place.” - Cecilie Manz
Cecilie Manz was born in 1972 in Odsherred, Denmark. She encountered design during her childhood in the ceramic workshop of her parents, both artists involved with design. Her career began in 1992 with an academic education at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts - The School of Design, where Cecilie Manz specialized in furniture and everyday objects. Very early on she became interested in functional and conceptual design, which took her as a foreign exchange student to the UIAH, University of Art and Design in Helsinki. A semester abroad at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki increased Manz’s awareness of the characteristics of Scandinavian design. In 1998, just a year after graduating from the Danish School of Design, Cecilie Manz founded her own company, which has been the focus of her work ever since. She is very successful with her designs of lamps, furniture and accessories for the home; she works with well-known manufacturers such as Bang & Olufsen's B&O Play, Fritz Hansen, Fredericia Furniture, Nils Holger Moormann, Lightyears, Georg, Jensen Damask, Iittala and Muuto. Cecilie Manz’s products are exhibited all over the world, and her creations are to be found in the permanent collections of institutions including the Museum of Modern Art (New York) and the Design Museum Denmark. She has received several major awards for her conceptional design.
Interview with Cecilie Manz
Ms Manz, you originally wanted to study painting. How did you become a designer?
It's true, I did want to study painting. Today, I still love the smell of oil paint. When I was preparing my portfolio to study art at the Royal Academy in Copenhagen, someone asked me why I wasn't also applying to the School of Design. I didn't see myself there, but I submitted my portfolio anyway. I was accepted for the design course but not for the Royal Academy. I was happy in a way, but I was of course also disappointed. So I told myself I’d give it a go for two or three months. If I liked it, I'd stay and, if not, I could always leave. And I loved it – and so I stayed.
You opened your own studio one year after finishing your studies. How do you work?
I've always liked working alone. Perhaps because I haven't yet found the perfect partner, I don't know. I can become very absorbed in a project and that is precisely what I like so much about my work. I simply can't hand over this intense involvement to anyone else. At the moment, my work situation is perfect: I have a small team. I always have the last word.
Your designs are extremely minimalist. Do you see your work in the context of your Danish roots?
Definitely. I believe that our roots are in our blood and our culture defines us. People in the north tend towards austerity and this is reflected in classical Danish design. I try to limit my objects to the essentials. So my work is a good reflection of my temperament.
What inspires you to create your designs?
I think a lot! The thing about inspiration is that it mainly happens internally. I'm like a filter and everything that I absorb in terms of textures, images and atmospheres flows through me. Ultimately, I can't say it was this or that painting or this or that music that inspired me directly.
You say you shouldn't design anything that makes life complicated: that would be poor design? How can you be sure that your products live up to this claim?
When I design a chair or a small spoon, I take it home with me and try it out for myself: hardcore testing. This is really important because, if it doesn't work for me, why should it work for you? And if it doesn't look good in my house, how could it look good anywhere else?
How did you experience working with Duravit ?
The trips to Hornberg were really special. In Denmark, we have lots of coastline and no mountains, the highest point is 656 feet. It felt like an adventure when I waited on the platform for the train, surrounded by all the mountains. I felt that Duravit was an established part of this place and this very special atmosphere also influenced my work with Duravit. I very quickly realized how much expertise Duravit has, how much knowledge and how many years of craftsmanship. I was delighted to work with all of this and to experience this commitment. You literally have to walk through piles of Kaolin and other ground materials of porcelain to get to the meeting rooms! But that is actually what makes all the difference to me: the connection to the material.