Eek en Ruijgrok B.V. en Piet Hein Eek
To better understand what it is exactly that we are doing, it is perhaps best to take a look back in time. The intuitive decisions we made in the past have turned out to be crucial for the development of the company and for me personally as a designer.
In my exam, I wrote that, if you want to function successfully and design beautiful objects, you need to make sure that your environment is a stimulating one and that you feel like a fish in water. So creating this type of environment, your daily reality, is much more important than setting all kinds of goals for the future. We started by creating a fishbowl with our own plants, stones and fish, and have since moved up to an aquarium. Although a little hideaway retreat, where a writer can write in peace and be content, is equally as - or perhaps even more - enviable. To us, the size of the company is not a goal in itself, but an incidental result of how we like to work.
Instead of working purely as a designer, we began producing, distributing and even selling our own products. Crucial for this decision was that both Nob and I actually enjoy being busy with so many different activities at the same time and learning to master them all. Designing alone has never been a dream. So instead of specializing and bringing in or buying all kinds of different competencies, we have opted to do everything ourselves. The products I have created have repeatedly been in keeping with the technical and financial possibilities. We've almost literally grown along with our britches. The company and possibilities have continued to grow through the years, ultimately resulting in our relocation into a building more than 10,000 square metres in size, where all kinds of different activities are brought together under one roof. The workshops (wood, steel, upholstery, assembly, spraying and ceramics) form the beating heart of the building. They are surrounded by the offices, showroom, shop, gallery, restaurant, storage and packing, studios that we rent out and even an event room. So we continue – perhaps even more so than before – to do everything in one place and in our own unique way.
Our site consists of three categories: series production, assignments and self-initiated work. The series production and the assignments are carried out by "Eek en Ruijgrok B.V."; the B.V. of Piet Hein Eek en Nob Ruijgrok. The self-initiated work is done by the one-man business "Piet Hein Eek".
These are all products in the collection. A large amount is furniture made in small series. Because of our flexibility, we are able to make even these products made-to-measure. The collection doesn't go by season, but adds on piece by piece. In the course of time a broad collection arose.
When working in commission, it's my goal to come to a design in which the client recognized himself. We achieve this by intensive conversations in which we get to a shared idea. After this I put the idea into a concrete design. To me it's a challenge to make designs which the client experiences as obvious.
The free work brings the theme of the rest of the work to a head. We do not make unpersonal mass-products but unique products of worthless material; waste material from the industry and nature. Instead of minimalizing the amount of work we process the material with angel's patience. The attention for these products is exemplary to our work. The materials we use are uncommon and modifying. Because of this, products arise that surprise me too. I would never have come up with the tree-trunk chair, if I'ld design from my traditional sense of beauty. Although this chair didn't come from this, it does appeal to it. Therefor the self initiated work also serves to shake off my own truths and shift my boundaries.
To give a complete image, I will illustrate our working process and the thread though our work here below. You will also find texts on the site that will explain certain products or projects.
Method of working
While designing, material, technique and organisation are modifying factors. Because these factors are, or are chosen, different all the time, the designs are very different also. Our approach and pragmatic method of working stay unaltered by which you will sooner see a connection in methods of work than in appearances.
For example I take the tree-trunk chair. This chair evolved from the nature project. A project in which I make products from material that, more or less, was withdrawn from nature. To let the material flourish it had to be processed in a simple technique. By using a specific screwed connection, the planks can now be joined square to each other.
the scrapwood cupboard from 1990 was my reaction against the prevalent craving for flawlessness. I wanted to show that products that aren't perfect still can appeal to our sense of aesthetic and functionality. I also wanted to design a product that could be made with limited means, material that was abundant. The combination of uncommon material and also uncommon, but simple methods of working became the thread through our work. Because of the expanded possibilities the variety in work has grown. Still, the challenge remains to get the maximum out of the circumstances.