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published on 19.08.2021

Kaspar Hamacher - The object becomes.

A conversation between Kaspar Hamacker, designer, Alexandre Humbert, director and Giovanna Massoni, curator.

Taking nature as his basis, he is focused resolutely on physical rather than conceptual design. As he says himself, he feels more craftsman than designer. Whether it is a tree stump or a piece of leather, the key is authenticity in every step of his design process. Hamacher’s working method always results in a unique, personal piece. A piece of design with a deeper meaning, with a soul.

Wood is like an old bone from ancient creatures. I use the material to make something beautiful: metaphorical objects that touch the soul.

What is a tree?
A tree is a living organism. The books of Peter Wohlleben changed my mindset: a living tree is connected to everything, also to us as human beings. 

Why do you work with dead trees?
For many reasons. First of all, it's a matter of respect: it makes no sense to cut a living tree because there are so many leftovers, so many dead trees all around … But it's also necessary to work with dead wood to make interior furniture so that the wood isn’t full of water and humidity. Dead wood is like a bone; its beauty immediately suggests the shape and how I can form it.

Could you talk about the way you started your practice in 2008?
My practice started much earlier, in my childhood. I keep an image in my mind: taking an old root from a tree in the forest. I brush it and then I sculpt little figures. My passion for working with the material started with my life in the forest. And then I grew up and I went to the Rudolf Steiner School where I continued to work with wood. Later, during my studies at the art academy, I was obliged to do research in a wider field. But after that, I came back to wood and I started my career in 2008. Step-by-step, growing every year, a bit like a tree.

Have you observed an evolution in the forests around you?
We used to live in a forest - my father is a forester – in this area. When I was young, there weren’t so many trees around. They were all cut, and then they planted new trees, and now when I go there for a walk, I see that the forest has changed completely.

How do you imagine your practice in ten years?
I always wanted to go to Japan once to spread my wings a little bit, but I knew that since I was born here I wanted to be here in a way. That's also why I've tried to work in Brussels, in Maastricht, but that's not possible to me, because I need my surroundings. I need the people connected to me here in this area, people from the forest that know where a tree has fallen, or something else. There are no traffic jams here; it's calm, which is great because I'm not really calm inside…

How does your work deal with the human scale? Why did you decide to work on such a big scale?
I'm always thinking about scale. In a collection called Monoliten, there are small and bigger pieces and one is bigger than a human being. It's stronger, it's more beautiful. It's like a metaphor: the scale has to be bigger than humans. Humans without nature isn't possible, but nature without humans is possible.

What about man-made forests?
Planting trees means that they aren’t grown in this place directly. When you plant a tree, the trees have been cut at their roots, and those little roots are the most important thing for the trees to connect with other trees … Well, this isn’t really my field. My field is more to give it a symbol, to create objects that you can think about, that lead you to think about nature, or humans and nature.

With my last work, I think I went too far: I created a sphere, and I feel really bad about cutting this beautiful form, the ultimate form. The wood was really expensive. It was heavy work to bring it to the machine and make a sphere out of it. It was a fantastic ball, a beautiful piece. Then I burned it. But I burned it because it's a symbol, it's a metaphor – we’re burning the planet.

What is the function of those spheres?
This ball is an object without a real function. The function is to keep you thinking or maybe to start a thinking process. The first time I looked at it in my atelier, I thought: wow, it means something to me, a feeling; maybe this is its function. You can put a glass on it, you can maybe sit on it, or you can roll it, but it's not about the function, it's an impressive feeling that it gives you … and I don't know why. And this 'why I don't know' is really important too: 'why I don't know' but I feel it. And this is the most important thing also for humans in their relationship with nature. I think humans have to be more concerned about their feelings, and not just about knowledge.

And when you look up at the stars, there's a big thing called the Moon… Now they're flying to Mars, to the Moon, searching for a new planet… yes…Once my father came here and said 'Kaspar, have you seen the first picture of Mars? They landed a robot … Do you know what I think? I think I've seen this before.'
I thought maybe we are from Mars. In the beginning, we went to Earth and now we are searching again for something new, maybe, I don't' know. Sometimes we just have these feelings, and that says enough…