lucas maassen & sons
Written by Shea Keats
Dutch designer Lucas Maassen is fascinated by family and its influence on both his own design and the history of the discipline. His work includes meditations on fatherhood, sibling relationships, sex and partnership, genetic legacy, and the ways in which all relationships affect our daily lives and our broader existence. Nowhere is this more evident than in Lucas Maassen and Sons, an ongoing design project between Lucas and his three, now teen, sons - Thijme, Julian, and Maris.
KINDER editor-in-chief and kinder MODERN founder, designer and curator, Lora Appleton sat down with the boys during Dutch Design Week in October 2017. The boys mused on what it’s like to work with their dad, their plans for the future, and their favorite projects. This conversation, and more, will be featured in a retrospective on Lucas's work this May at kinder MODERN.
Beginning in 2013 with Furniture Factory, the boys, the elder then just nine years of age and the twins seven, were first employed by Maassen to work for him in their own family “factory.” Lucas designs and produces the furniture and the children paint. They are paid one euro per chair for their work, as detailed in their official contract with their father. Due to Dutch child labor laws, the boys are only permitted to work for three hours each week, creating their signature, somewhat messy, aesthetic out of a consideration for production speed. This project still produces new work and pieces can be made to order through kinder MODERN.
At the Collective Design fair in 2015, the group presented a new project, Alvar Aalto and the Eight Legged Chair. This conceptual blend of art, design, and narrative storytelling examined the intersection of innate talent and acquired skills, as well as themes of education, influence, and parentage. The original project aimed to teach the boys about Aalto’s iconic design. However, when Lucas found the boys were bored by design history, he worked with his partner, writer and artist Margriet Craens, to create a comedic alternative explanation as to how the famous stool ended up with only three legs. The boys then interpreted the story in a series of handcrafted objects.
The third iteration of Lucas Maassen and Sons, MADE IN CHINA by: (2015), took the furniture factory abroad, experimenting with mass production in order to bypass the boys’ limited working time. The children also gained new new insight into the many ways their own work may be (mis)interpreted by those producing it. The family set up a production facility at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts and the boys asked the facility to produce one hundred clocks based on each of the boys’ own designs. Their imaginative and novice descriptions of their designs led to unique interpretations by the factory workers.
Their most recent project, and perhaps the most ambitious, is See the Lightness (2016) commissioned by the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht and is another reflection on history and narrative. In this work the family takes on Gerrit Rietveld’s rare, yet iconic, perforated aluminum chair. Rietveld intended to mass produce this chair for the public, but ultimately only four pieces were ever made. Just as history tells us Rietveld and his sons sat around their table to discuss their work, so Lucas does with his sons, this quotidian moment beautifully captured in a short film. Ultimately Lucas, Thijme, Julian, and Maris designed and produced three versions of the chair, each inspired by various sources, (including another story by Craens) as they playfully rewrote history.
Dutch conceptual designer Lucas Maassen has produced one-of-a-kind pieces with his three sons, developed projects with his partner Margriet Craens, and presented his own often politically-themed work. Maassen has exhibited internationally at MoMA, Vitra Design Museum, Design Miami and Salone del Mobile among others. Projects and exhibitions include THE SITCOM!,Valerie, My Crystal Sister, The Singing Chair, The Chair Affair, and Wall Street. He is based in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, and teaches in the Social Design Master program at the Design Academy Eindhoven and at the Academy of Art Communication and Design in Tilburg.