Agne Kucerenkaite | Work in Progress
Agne Kucerenkaite graduated from Design Academy Eindhoven in 2016. She develops products from ceramics and textiles that she colors with "waste". Last year she won the Red Dot Design Award, now she’s ready to scale up her business. In conversation with the Lithuanian designer who currently lives (and works) in an exquisite studio at Strijp-S.
What made you come to Eindhoven?
"In Lithuania I started working as an interior architect after my studies. I had nice projects but I also realized: I miss my creativity and individuality. The Design Academy Eindhoven is internationally well regarded and I decided to visit the open days. I was hooked from the start. Their conceptual approach goes a long way. There aren’t many places where the process of creating new things is appreciated as much as here in Eindhoven."
Can you tell us more about your project 'Ignorance is Bliss'?
"The essence is that I see waste as a source to create new things with. In my case, I chose metal and botanical residue to color ceramics and textiles with. I have developed a collection of tiles and tableware. And I’m currently designing a collection of rugs, among other things."
Where do you find metal waste?
"Metal by-products are found in abundance in our groundwater and in polluted soils. I contacted drinking water supply and soil remediation companies that filter out these metals. For them it is waste, for me a new raw material. If you want to color ceramics, you need metals. You could use industrially processed new metals for this or, as I'm doing now, metals that are already available."
How did you feel about taking part in the Graduation Show?
"It's tradition that DAE graduates present their work at the Graduation Show during Dutch Design Week. For me it was the moment to share 'Ignorance is Bliss' with the world. The result of extensive research into the many color variations you can achieve using metal waste."
Did your exposure during DDW take you further?
"Yes, afterwards I was invited to talks and exhibitions in many places. At the Design Museum in London, for example, and just before the pandemic broke out at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Arizona. All those networking moments gave me endless opportunities to practice my story."
How is your work going during the pandemic?
Smiles: “Well, no networking events at the moment. I can't use my workspace for a while either. So for the time being I'm doing everything from home. I wake up early in the morning, usually around six o'clock. I usually stay in bed for another hour, that's when the creative ideas come. I use this lockdown period mainly to scale up my business."
Agne recently moved into the old Philips Bedrijfsschool at Strijp-S, where she also welcomes us for this interview. The immense window behind her dining table offers a wide view of the city. In the kitchen a kind of yellow soup is simmering on the stove. It is her latest experiment to make dyes from agricultural waste streams - in this case, the remains from mustard seed cultivation.
What has been an important moment for you as an entrepreneur so far?
"I think when Jordy's Bakery from Rotterdam approached me, after the Graduation Show, for the tiles for their new bar. At the time, I produced about 400 tiles on my own. That was the moment I realized I had to outsource the production process. I now have a great collaboration with Albarello, an artisanal tile factory from Friesland.
How does such a collaboration come about?
"In this case Atelier NL, a well-known design agency in Eindhoven, introduced me to them. But I also force myself to step out of my design bubble every now and then and to meet new people from other disciplines. In recent years, I've called numerous organizations to collaborate with. From water purification companies to ceramic factories."
Is there anything else we can help you with?
As I am currently focusing on dyes from waste in the textile industry, I would like to connect with manufacturers and labs that have professional equipment for coloring textiles or sustainable finishing and would be open to further experimentation.
In general, I would love to hear from companies or businesses that generate some sort of waste in huge quantities and would be open to collaborations or partnerships."
What if you are still at the very beginning? If you feel like you have gold in your hands, but you are still a long way from being there? Every month we ask a design or tech talent about his or her work in progress. And if we can help with something. Would you like to tell us more about a project? Send us an e-mail!