New Zealand-born couple Alex and Dan are the founders behind Batten and Kamp, a multidisciplinary design studio based in Hong Kong.
Interview by Paradigm Haus
Dan and Alex, Image Courtesy of Batten and Kamp (by Jake Thomas)
Paradigm Haus: Tell us about how you got started in the design field.
Batten and Kamp: I studied Interior Architecture and Dan studied Industrial Design in Wellington, New Zealand. I was a pretty expressive kid, always performing, drawing, making up stories...I was far more extroverted than I am now. Dan's early creativity came in the form of destruction, building and breaking things on his farm, getting into trouble, just generally pushing the boundaries. I love the idea of young Dan and Ali, they are people we try to tap into when we think we are being too serious.
PH: Break down your design process from ideation to final product.
BAK: It always begins with a conversation and often over coffee in the morning. Our conversations go really wide, not just focusing on a brief or new idea but expanding out into the universe of what we are reading, thinking, discussing works we love, etc...and every part of it feeds into what will end up being the final design. The conversations don’t stop but at some point, we start sketching and eventually those sketches turn into 3D models, followed by prototypes. The front end of the creative process is always the two of us, even when we are split between jobs we always start together and both feed creatively into everything we do.
Image Courtesy of Batten and Kamp
PH: How does sustainability and nature play into your design themes?
BAK: Nature is a vital component of our work and who we are. Coming from New Zealand it feels like a part of us was born in the trees, the dirt, the river water – it's in us to our core. Natural components and ideas tend to make their way into everything we do. Sustainability is thought about in our work in a wider sense, all our pieces are limited edition and we really consider what should exist in the world. We don’t limit ourselves with the materials we use in the concept stage of our process but it is certainly something we consider when we start production.
PH: If you could imagine the perfect environment to create and what does it look like and why?
BAK: Time, space, sunlight. Time is a hard one to control and yet it is so vital for Dan and I in allowing ideas to bubble to the surface. When I feel overwhelmed or distracted I simply am not my best creatively, in fact, I feel completely non-creative. So with the time element sorted, space and sunlight are key and we are lucky enough to have both in abundance in our studio.
PH: What does 'design' and 'art' mean to you?
BAK: Design is driven by a brief.
Art is driven by creative pursuit.
Steel and Stone Floor Light, Image Courtesy of Batten and Kamp
PH: How are the fields intersecting as you see it now?
BAK: The crossover between disciplines has been happening for a long time but it seems to have recently reached a point of critical mass and become more a part of public discourse. We are both from design backgrounds but work more in the ‘art world’ so we are constantly experiencing this duality of tension and opportunity present at the intersection of two worlds. We’ve found our clients and collaborators don’t seem to care anymore if our work is ‘design’ or ‘art’ or ‘designart’ or ‘artdesign’ but the tension is certainly something we grapple with in our process. Our designer minds over-think and iterate and re-do while our artist minds are always fighting for more freedom and immediacy. We are trying to un-learn some of the deliberacy we learnt at university to allow more space for intuition.
I think the intersection is exciting to people because people perceive it to be more accessible, more playful, weirder. Or maybe it just feels new.
PH: What are you working on now and what can we expect to see from you in the future?
BAK: We are just starting the production phase of a full new collection with Novalis Contemporary Art Design which will be a slight departure from the first collection. It was developed over this weird couple of years, so it really draws on the longing and strangeness of our experiences of covid (including Dan’s 31 days locked in a glass box in hospital). The pieces are more surreal and sci-fi than what we’ve done before which, contrary to what our audience might expect, is actually a really honest reflection of who we are and what we’re interested in at the moment.
Stone and Steel Lounge Chair, Image Courtesy of Batten and Kamp
All Images Courtesy of Batten and Kamp.