| Robin Boltz | Please Introduce yourself_
| Meike Harde | I am 28 years old, self employed since 2013 and I work in conceptional furniture design. I try to overcome established shapes with classic materials. Another goal could be for example to integrate a step into the industrial process that can only be done by hand. The result would be an industrial product that is unique at the same time.
| Robin Boltz | What is a typical day at work for you?
| Meike Harde | My work days are very different. Usually, I spend the first 1-2 hours being on the phone with companies, manufacturers or architects. Depending on the stage of the process I do research, draw some ideas or build models. If a project is nearing the end, I spend multiple days with the prototype and take a lot of time to take pictures.
| Robin Boltz | What did your parents do? How big of a role did that play in your life? Did it influence you in one way or another?
| Meike Harde | My mother is an elementary school teacher and went to art school. My father’s major was physics and he is the head of a software company. Basically my parents gave me the abilities that I need as a product designer. From my mother I got a feeling for aesthetics, from my father the spatio-mathematical comprehension. For commercial matters or the development of offers I can always ask my father for help.
| Robin Boltz | Do you have higher education in the field of fine arts?
| Meike Harde | Yes, I studied product design at an interdisciplinary art school. Artists and designers are closely connected there.
| Robin Boltz | In retrospect do you think a university degree was necessary or worth the price for what you’re doing now? What did you learn, and what was rather unnecessary? Would you recommend going to University to young people aspiring to become designers? Or do you have any other advice, for that matter?
| Meike Harde | Yes, I do think it was important to go to university.
Also I don’t know of any autodidacts who do product design. Especially in that field, education and expertise in the field is crucial. Every year that I get through, it gets easier and easier for me to design or construct furniture. This is specifically so when it comes to certain manufacturing techniques, materials, the production process and the market works and is organized. Those are just things that you have to learn how to do. A good eye for good design has to be trained too.
I think it’s necessary to engage yourself deeply in the subject matter for many years in order to be open for new and creative ideas in the end.
| Robin Boltz | What do you consider your most satisfying professional experience so far, your biggest success? What are you most proud of?
| Meike Harde | Tough Question. I hope that those will be the projects I have planned for 2016. Also this spring I received a Special Mention in the Design Report Awards. I was very happy about that, especially because I really admire the people in the jury (Michael Anastassiades and Jana Scholze amongst others).
| Robin Boltz | What was your most frustrating professional experience?
| Meike Harde | There have been multiple small frustrations. If a project ends up not going into production. If a contact doesn’t reply. If you don’t get published.
The Process - Wooden Aquarell
| Robin Boltz | We are especially interested in your wooden aquarell works - Could you briefly describe the process of making them? How long does it take to make them?
| Meike Harde | Wooden Aquarells is a wet-in-wet-method, which means that I pour a bit of water on the wooden surface and then I add the coloring agent. On the thin surface of the water, the colors mix autonomically and leave uncontrolled streaks and color gradients.
The dyeing itself is a relatively short process. It takes me about 10-15 minutes to pour the water and the pigments. Then the water has to evaporate, which can take 2-4 hours.
| Robin Boltz | How did you come up with the technique? Have you ever seen something similar anywhere else? Is this a traditional technique or did you discover it by playing with materials?
| Meike Harde | Basically the project was due to a previous accident. I was about to dye a piece of cloth for a model when the coloring pigments fell onto the wooden table by accident. As they got wet and I watched the color spread out on the surface, it wasn’t such a bad thing the mishap happened anymore. I started testing the pigments on different types of wood; experimented with coatings. In the end, I developed a technique to dye wooden surfaces with an aquarell technique which can later be used to be turned into furniture.
| Robin Boltz | Your main interest is the creative use of materials - would you consider trying to apply the technique on other materials, eg. completely different surfaces? What do you have planned with it?
| Meike Harde | I would maybe try to dye fabric. But if I did I would have to adapt the technique a bit. I would like to broaden the range of the wooden aquarell products as well.
Young and Hungry
| Robin Boltz | As a young successful designer - have you ever felt as thought your age hindered you from being taken seriously on a professional level or for others to try and take advantage of your lack of extensive experience?
| Meike Harde | It’s always hard to get recognition, I don’t know if that’s necessarily due to age. I don’t think so. Of course, a confident presentation of yourself is always important and gaining confidence takes time.
I used to get requests to work for free, which I have to turn down.
| Robin Boltz | Has there been a piece of advice that stuck with you, or caused an aha-moment which had an impact on your professional life? If yes, which? And was the timing important for you to be able to process the advice? What kind of advice was not helpful for your career?
| Meike Harde | I received a lot of advice. Some telling me that I shouldn’t be doing what I am :-)
That it would be too much of a risk, too specific, that I wouldn’t be able to make money that way etc. Of course I didn’t listen to that. It wasn’t certain pieces of advice that brought me further. It was more of a general exchange with other young designers. The anxieties or the strategy for talking to companies etc.. We are like a big community. Even though we all have a similar goal, we still support each other and that was a big help for me.
| Robin Boltz | Have you ever had some sort of mentor to help you get started so quickly?
| Meike Harde | No, sadly I didn’t. After some time I met nice people who recommend me from time to time.
But I also realized that even if you start from the bottom you can still make it. In University and after getting my diploma I basically had nothing. It wasn’t until the contests and the exhibitions that I gained some connections I could make use of.
| Robin Boltz | What role do you think expectations from the people around you have played in your career steps so far? What expectations do you have for yourself? Were they more motivating or rather obstructive on your way to finding out what you wanted to be and do and how?
| Meike Harde | The expectations I had for myself were what brought me to where I am now. Expectations of the people around me sometimes were hard on me. Oftentimes it was about money. You need to be aware that if you become self-employed (in the beginning) you won’t be making a lot of money and adjust your living standards accordingly. If you do something passionately, it doesn’t matter anyway. I am very thankful that I am allowed to do what I’m doing, so the salary is secondary. If I make money with a project, I usually start thinking about in which project I can invest it in next.
| Robin Boltz | Do you have a piece of advice for young aspiring artists who are trying to make it in the business?
| Meike Harde | This is going to sound a little odd, but the most important thing are really good photos and great graphics. With everything! Website, Flyer, Logo, Presentations. If the graphic design doesn’t fit, the products can’t make up for it.
Other than that, making a confident impression. Not being arrogant and nor too shy.
| Robin Boltz | Do you think that natural talent can make up for a lack of experience, and the other way around? Did you ever consider your age to be a disadvantage?
| Meike Harde | No, only a combination of both works.
If my age has been a disadvantage, it was due to my lack of experience. Other than that, age doesn’t matter.
| Robin Boltz | Social Media is a major tool in advertising and representing yourself and your work nowadays, and a good knowledge of how to deal with the internet is becoming more and more important in business. Do you think that your age is a factor in terms of self-advertising? Would you say you are more comfortable using the Internet as a business tool than people who didn’t grow up with it?
| Meike Harde | I think that I can’t answer that question until I’m older. Maybe it’s easier to join a conversation when you’re young. If you’re trying to build up something as a young person, it’s easier to handle for the people around you as well.
By now, most of the older designers have a pretty good online presence as well. The website is your business card. It is the place where you can present yourself the way you want to be seen.
Apart from that, I am not very active (online) as well. I am only on facebook and post news from time to time. Of course I keep in touch with my press contacts by Newsletters via E-Mail.
| Robin Boltz | What’s your inspiration for your creative work and where do you search for and find it?
| Meike Harde | The creative process is very hard to understand. I don’t understand how and why I have ideas either. I just feel that from time to time I am in a certain mood. Then, I get a lot of ideas all at once.
| Robin Boltz | If you had to choose any job other than the one you have now, no matter if you’re qualified for it or not, what would it be and why do you like it? Is there any connection to the job you have? Which of your personality traits play a role in your choice of work environments?
| Meike Harde | Something in a nature environment with animals. Or a dog walker.
Actually something that doesn’t have anything to do with design. So basically, what I like to do in my free time. I would be doing design on the side in that scenario :-)
| Robin Boltz | Tell us about your other projects - what is especially important to you? Do you have new exciting things planned right now?
| Meike Harde | I would like to go back to working with textiles more. At the moment I am developing some chair and padding concepts that, according to my approach, are supposed to display a new and alternative form of construction and use of materials. Meanwhile I am working on a glass plate collection, which is supposed to get an especially natural decor.
| Robin Boltz | Can you recommend one person that you know from any other creative discipline who has an amazing story thats worth sharing?
| Meike Harde | Hanne Willman. She just received her diploma in 2014 but during that short time frame she already achieved a lot!
Best co-work space?
Best place to get a drink?
Hotel you would stay in if you weren’t from Saarbrücken?
I would stay in a nice apartment with roommates over AirBnb.
Best unknown shop?
Flea Market :-)
Up and coming talent?
Kiosk Kollektiv - Graphic Designers
Best place to take clients?
Tomate 2 at the castle
Resources to help you with your career
HBK Saar and reliable manufacturers