Love For Leather: Interview with the Dutch designer Jacob de Baan on his new lighting design for the brand Uniqka

Kerem Aris and Merve Parnas have a passion for leather and create unique handmade products that are completely sustainable. Their Istanbul based brand is called UNIQKA and together with Dutch designer Jacob de Baan they have created the ZERO COLLECTION that was on show at DESIGN LANGUAGE during MILAN DESIGN WEEK 2017. We had the chance to meet the Dutch designer Jacob de Baan, a Dutch creative professional with more than 25 years of experience in product design and visual communication.

Gizem Büyüktürkoğlu:How did Uniqka and Jacob de Baan collaborate?

Jacob de Baan:From 2013 I lived in Istanbul where I collaborated with galeries, designers, teachers and students. As well I met Kerem Aris and Merve Parnas. They passionately love leather and they create unique handmade products that are completely sustainable. Their brand is called UNIQKA. They asked me to design a series of objects for their brand. They took me to their amazing leather workshop one hour drive outside Istanbul.


The process was very structured. First I asked many questions about the brand and about leather. Then I made moodboards based on their input. Finally I came up with 4 categories: colors, materials, lights and shapes. At ‘colors’ black was important. At ‘materials’ brass was important. At shapes ‘stiches’ were important. At ‘light’ the sun and circular shape came out. Only then I started designing. Merve and Kerem visited me in Amsterdam and I proposed the first sketches and shapes. They liked the concept of the lamps. Then they started making prototypes in Istanbul that we discussed through Skype, many times. 6 weeks ago I went to Istanbul to work with them in the leather workshop 1 hour drive outside Istanbul. I made final illustrator- files for them, and we went to the laser cutting company together. It was great fun!

Then we made the final discussions through Skype. I helped them to make press texts and advised them to have good pictures of them as a couple. I proposed the idea for a postcard with a hole and Kerem made the design. It was a perfect team work.

Gizem Büyüktürkoğlu:How do you describe your design philisophy?

Jacob de Baan: My design philosophy for lamps is to understand the human eye and what light does. The lamp is not the object but the subject. The sun, the moon, the stars are the natural light sources and the human eye and the body is conditioned to respond to that light. Blue sky means: let s get to work! Dark sky and low sun means, let ’s relax and go to bed.

That is why lamps are globes (like the sun or the moon), or little tiny lamps (like the stars).

Gizem Büyüktürkoğlu:Yes, we see that you like designing lightings… There are lots of brands that you designed lighting instruments like saphire lamp, IJ lamp, the ones you designed for DARK for example… They all look so industrial. What was the difference between working with an artisan brand like Uniqka and Phillips or Osram?

Jacob de Baan: Well… I try to make lamps accesable for all people, so I am looking for mass market. But I like handmade and artisan projects as well! It is such a nice process, being in a workshop. I as well work with clay.

Gizem Büyüktürkoğlu:Why does the collection is called “Zero Collection”?


Jacob de Baan: Because, it is my first time to work with leather. I designed many products and lamps, in many different materials: metal, wood, plastic, ceramics, even in coconut timber. But I knew almost nothing about leather, nada, zero. That is why it is called the zero-collection. As well the shapes look like a zero.

Uniqka took me to the workshop in Istanbul and to design a collection of lamps, and objects for the home. I was so excited. For me it was like playing in the kindergarten.

Gizem Büyüktürkoğlu:Did you like working with leather?

zero-collection-3Jacob de Baan: Yes, I like a lot. I am impressed by the hand made quality and craftmanship and craftwomanship by Merve and Kerem. The material does have a shiny effect, so it reflects the light a bit. Almost like clouds in the sky.

Gizem Büyüktürkoğlu:On your web site it is mentioned that in all your projects you pay particular attention to ecology and sustainability. Designing is in a way problem solving, and it is a long process with many components. Was “Sustainability” one of the components for the “Zero Collection”, i wondered…

Jacob de Baan: Yes, exactly! I communicated a lot about sustainability with Kerem and Merve, because it is very important for me. The Zero collection is a circular design statement. The leather that is used is a by-product of meat production. The treatment it gets is without poisonous chemicals. It is colored with natural ingredients. It is made by hand and the life cycle is very long. The yarns are natural. The brass is resusable. It is easy to separate.


Gizem Büyüktürkoğlu:And for the last… Will you be designing more pieces for the brand Uniqka?

Jacob de Baan: Yes, i will be. But, maybe i should not talk about it more. Let it be a suprise.

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