Wieki Somers

Wieki Somers is just back from vacation, the studio’s been closed for three weeks. As usual, she and Dylan van den Berg, her partner in love and work, were in the North-Italian Alps for the summer. After taking their tent up high into the mountains they rented a house on the north coast. ‘All year long, we travel to city after city,’ says Somers. ‘On vacation, it’s only mountains and sea, to empty our heads.’ She shows a breath-taking photograph of an abandoned lake, with deep-blue mountains in the background. Patches of fog over the water. The picture shows the exact signature of their designs: a magical beauty that always contains something timeless.


Wieki is the visible designer, while Dylan works behind the scenes. They met at the Design Academy Eindhoven. When they started to work together full time, they decided to keep the name Studio Wieki Somers, which already had some known designs, and add both of their names as a subtitle. The studio is located in a former customs office next to the Rotterdamse Fruithaven. A cabinet behind Wieki’s desk displays a fascinating collection of personal ‘inspirations’: souvenirs, found branches, rocks from the mountains, glass bottles, prototypes and miniature versions of existing designs.

CH SHIELDS 03 WEB Brian Ferry
CH SHIELDS 04 WEB Brian Ferry


A day after getting home, the office is still quiet, but the coming year promises to be busy. The studio is working on an exhibition for the Vitra Design Museum in 2018. And there’s a new show coming up in Galerie Kreo, with whom Somers and Van den Berg have been collaborating for years, and for which they’ll need to create a completely new collection. The beautiful storefront work for luxury brand Hermès is going to be continued, they’re busy with the preparations for the Moskou Biennale which starts in September, and the Mudac museum in the Swiss Lausanne is showing an overview exhibition of their work in October. It will contain many new works, like the glass vases from the ‘Still Waters’ project that they made for Thomas Eyck last year, their tea set for Japanese brand Arita, and the textile installations for Kinnasand.


In April, during the Salone del Mobile in Milan, Somers and Van den Berg presented their designs for Kinnasand, a Scandinavian textile brand that was taken over by Kvadrat in 2012. Kinnasand LAB is a new initiative where external designers are inspired by textile in general, and Kinnasand’s fabrics in particular. In Milan, the prototypes of the first collaboration were presented: Somers’s ‘shields’. ‘Among other things, the series consists of panels that can be hung in front of the window or used as room screens,’ says Somers, ‘for example, to divide work and private spaces.’ They’re made of semi-transparent fabrics with embroidered patterns and wooden slats. Various patterns can be created with the slats, to influence the rhythm and light of both the panels and the space. For Kinnasand’s Milanese showroom, Somers and Van den Berg also designed a kite-like installation that was photographed a lot during the design week. Somers: ‘We stretched the newest collection of fabrics across frames, creating kite- like objects that hang from the ceiling of the showroom.’ As inspiration for the shapes, Wieki mentions the kites they sometimes fly on the beach. ‘It never stops being fascinating, how a piece of fabric on a string can hover on the wind,’ she says. In September, this textile installation will be on view in the Cooper Hewitt museum in New York, during the New York Textile Month. Yet another trip on Somers and Van den Berg’s agenda.


The Studio puts a lot of time into material research. ‘An idea alone isn’t interesting,’ says Wieki, ‘it’s the physical material that determines whether something is a good product. The qualities of a material, like appearance, tactility and sensuality, are very important to the meanings we want to convey. And textile, especially, can stimulate the senses and enhance the experience of a space.’ ‘We always work through that same fascination,’ she says. ‘We often get our inspirations from daily life. We observe normal situations and customs, we watch how people interact with things and what associations they have with them, and then we unleash our fantasy. We make the usual unusual in a subtle way. In this way we bring hidden qualities in everyday objects back to life and invite people to look at their daily reality in a different way.’ The research prior to a design is more important than a recognizable form language or style. ‘Our work comes from an open and free investigative approach, more so than from standard design principles. Returning subjects for us are: magical reality, weird combinations, creatable nature and daily rituals.’ Working on behalf of museums and galleries, like Kreo, which also shows the work of Hella Jongerius, the Ronan brothers and Erwan Bououllec, gives them space and time to do research. Those ‘pre-studies’ often lead to other productions. For instance, they were able to use a curtain that drops ‘blossoms’ in the form of punched leaves, originally made for Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, in a collaboration with Alexander McQueen in his showrooms in Miami and Milan. ‘We hope to make products that make one wonder, pause and that sometimes irritate,’ says Somers. ‘If you look longer you’ll discover multiple layers, and it’s exactly that layered effect that strengthens the bond between human and design.’

This interview was published in WOTH issue No6 still available in our shop.