Some products will be forever timeless and beautiful. The products of Thomas Schnur clearly belong to this: the Cologne-based product designer creates everyday products with a minimalist and unique approach. The function stays always in the foreground: in his portfolio do you find sitting furniture, coatracks, cabinets or accesscoires like scissors. Thomas reduces his design on the essentials: form and colors used by him very discreetly and well. Trained as a carpenter, Thomas has studied at the University of Aachen and the École Supérieure d'Art et Design de Saint Étienne and worked for the fabulous designer Mathieu Lehanneur in Paris. Currently he works and lives in Cologne, Germany. I was very pleased that Thomas gave an interview about his work. I hope you like it.
Hi, please tell me a little bit about you and your work
Hello, my name is Thomas Schnur and I’m a Cologne based Product Designer.
What is the idea behind your objects?
I don’t think that there is a common easy explainable idea behind my objects. My approach to design is rather comparable with a research. It´s a research on material, manufacturing, appearance, meaning and function. The form comes out as a result of that research.
Your style is minimal, functional and highly aesthetic. What is your inspiration? Do you have any icons or role models?
No, I don’t have any icons or role models. I hope my products are rather an essence of thoughts then a style. My inspiration or my research very often starts by looking and understanding anonymously designed objects or ordinary things. Even the whole system of our reality is an inspiration for me - our industrial society and its psychology. That’s also why I love product design. It brings all those systems together and finally reaches people with an end product.
Do you have your favourite piece? And why?
From time to time I like one object more than another. Very often it's the piece that is freshly done. Another time it's the oldest work, and so on. I guess the Rubber Table is a very unique piece and maybe the most iconic and strangest thing that I have done so far.
How important are the following terms for you: form, composition and colour?
Form, composition and colour are very important. Those terms make a product understandable for the user. All those parameters are communicators and transport the soul of a product. Still, if there is no soul, no certain idea, no research to tell, then the product is lost because you have nothing to communicate.
How important is the craftsmanship in your work?
The craftsmanship or fabrication method is very important. It can change the whole product. All my work is very much influenced by the way how it is produced. Still I don’t have any romantic to the traditional craftsmanship. For me, an engineer is a modern craftsman.
My training started as a carpenter. In the workshop I learned to understand that our surrounding is build by humans. Then I started to study design in Aachen. I enjoyed my first years of studying there but I was highly interested to go back to reality and to learn how design works in the "real" life. After two years of studying in Aachen I went to .molldesign in Schwäbsich Gemünd to do a 6-month internship there. Then, after half a year back in Aachen I spend one whole year in France. I was in Paris to work for Mathieu Lehanneur and then in Saint Etienne to study at the l'école supérieure d'art et design.
What does it mean to you to live and work in Cologne, Germany ?
Living and working in Cologne means to have a town where I can come back. Here I have my friends and the environment that I know. But it also means to be well connected to the rest of the world. I can easily go in each direction and meet clients somewhere in the rest of Germany or Europe.
To me being a designer means being an actor in our world. So I am an actor through designing the things that surround us.
Do you have your own philosophy?
I don’t want to say that I have a philosophy. Thinking and writing down my thoughts is an tool for me to develop ideas and researches, but there is no fix philosophy. Maybe it´s a way of working, a statement, but no philosophy.
How do you work and how has that changed?At the beginning of my career I worked more on the psychological part of objects. Currently I’m more interested in its fabrication methods and how the objects are used. But still I try to be essential.
Talent or hardwork? Which do you think will make it?
What is for you the most important factor in the design process? Each step is important if you want to receive a product which has its own reality and authenticity. But maybe to find the core, the essence, the DNA of a product is the most important and hardest job to do.
Where would we find you when you’re not at work?
In bed, in the city, on the bicycle, at a friend´s place, in the forest, in the street, in the bar, in the museum, in the water and at home.
How has knowing to appreciate art and design affect the way you live?
I guess I'm still the same just in another context.
Do you think working without restrictions or working for yourself can be the hardest thing to do?
It's hard anyway because a world without restrictions doesn’t exist. That’s what makes the world so interesting.
If you are not doing design what will you be doing?I very often asked this question to myself. And all the time I think of jobs which are very much connected to the system we live in but also close to people. I’m born in a little village in the south west of Germany and if I haven´t had the possibility to go to study I think I would do a job as taxi driver, barman or carpenter.
What is your goal for the future?
To work with the Industry.
© Thomas Schnur