DO something different

Glass is hot. And colour is back in vogue. So Germans Ermičs’s work is super trendy: tinted mirrors, glass tables and wall units with an attractive colour scheme, slightly bent wall panels with a transparent red, blue and purple colour palette. But Ermičs resists being stereotyped as a fashion surfer. ‘Of course, I make aesthetic objects. But my use of colour doesn’t stem from a decorative mindset. Also, I don’t paint the colour on after the fact, it’s an integral, important part of the design.’ Moreover, Ermičs was working with glass before anyone else even saw its appeal. ‘When I made a mirror for my graduation presentation in 2011, people shrugged. Lamps and Furniture were the bee’s knees back then. There was a stubborn prejudice against glass. People thought it was cold and boring. But I wanted to change that. I wanted to make people look at glass differently. Really look: not through it, but at it. I did that by using colour.’

Shaping Colour by Germans Ermis 2016 mirror detail 2 1200
shaping colour 2016 mirror 1200
shaping colour 2016 mirror detail 1 1200


That’s easier said than done. With Ermičs, the design process is a sequence of thoughtful steps that can take months, if not years. ‘In my first year as an independent designer I researched the relation between glass and colour and discovered a new way of adding pigment to glass. In the second year I started bending glass, changing the visual language in the process: in this way colour and shape were suddenly related. And in the third year I finally made an object.’ And what an object! Using his glass panels with a decreasing colour gradient, Ermičs created the Ombré Chair, a modern-day version of Shiro Kuramata’s classic glass chair of 1976. ‘I doubted if I should do this for a long time,’ Ermičs admits. ‘Making a chair is a loaded statement for designers. And especially one based on such an icon. In the end I decided to do it because I wanted to pay homage to Kuramata. He worked with revolutionary glue back then, allowing him to assemble the chair without screws. I’m adding a technical innovation from our time.’


The fact that Ermičs now gives interviews to big design magazines and gets asked to collaborate on a project by design diva Rosanna Orlandi is not self-evident considering his biography. He was born in 1985, in Riga, the capitol of Latvia. His father was a carpenter. As a child, he mucked around in the workshop, but as a teenager, computers pointed the way to graphic design. ‘In high school, I designed posters and cd-covers for classmates. In 2007, I started the magazine Veto with my friends. We focussed on bands and young creators, all of it flew under the radar of the big public. Without any experience or money, we made an issue every two months. I haven’t been the art director for a while now, but the magazine still exists.’ Ermičs is just a little older than the independence of his home country. Latvia cut itself off from the former Soviet Union in 1991. ‘There was freedom, but from a cultural standpoint we were living in a vacuum,’ he says. ‘There wasn’t a lot to do in Riga. The only artistic references we had were a kind of 1920s Romanticism or – even further in the past – pre-Christian mythology. And of course, the Social Realism of the communists. When the borders opened and Western influences came pouring in, I sucked it all up like a sponge. MTV made an impression, when it was still cool. The Internet was like a candy store. ’Studying design for half a year at the University of Riga was enough to reach the conclusion that Latvia didn’t have what Ermičs was looking for. The study was completely technical and he wanted to be something other than an engineer. Latvia was part of the EU by then, making travelling much easier. Ermičs departed to Denmark for a pre-study and learned about Dutch Design there. ‘My mind was blown,’ he states bluntly. ‘At that point I knew: I want to go to the Design Academy in Eindhoven, and I’m going to study communication design there. I did an internship at Rasmus Koch Studio in Kopenhagen, and on my last day I had a conversation with Rasmus. He asked me: “Why do what you already know? Do something different.” I took that advice to heart, and in Eindhoven I studied interior. That wasn’t always easy, teachers usually paid more attention to the book I made with an object than to the object itself. But it did lead to my present, hybrid work process. I turn two-dimensional ideas into three-dimensional objects.’

Ombr Glass Chair 1200
Ombr Glass Chair detail 3 1200
Tall Horizon Screen Ombr Glass Chair 1200


After his studies, Ermičs left Eindhoven. ‘It can kind of feel like a bubble, and it’s good to step out of it.’ Rotterdam wasn’t an option because it ‘looks too much like Eindhoven’. Amsterdam became the place where he started his own studio in 2014. ‘especially compared to all the countries where I’ve lived and worked – Latvia, Denmark and France – the Netherlands is a great breeding ground for very diverse talent. Dutch people have fun breaking the rules, but at the same time possess a strong work ethic, and that appeals to me. In Holland, Amsterdam is the city where everything comes together, but not everything is focussed on design per se. That creates a great work atmosphere.’ Starting his own studio was an all-or-nothing scenario. Of course, Ermičs could have made it easier on himself by producing colourful knick-knacks for a hungry market. ‘But to me, the product is just a bonus, it’s a way to communicate my message,’ he says. ‘I always start from the material, that’s followed by form, with function at the very end.’ That approach has gotten him commissions from, among others, Raf Simons, for whom he designed clothing displays. He also works with architects a lot. ‘Recently, I flew to India at the request of a private owner who wants an 8-metre- long walkway made of glass. And I’ve been asked for the Alchemist Concept Store in Miami.’