Richard Venlet - Wolfers stool

Mannerism, Maniérisme, Maniera

Art has always found a way to shimmy past galleries and museums, and into our daily life.  It finds its way into our dining, music, in ways that we might not even notice.  And now, it's finding its way into our furniture with the collaborative design company, Maniera.

The brainchild of Amaryllis Jacobs and Kwinten Lavigne, Maniera combines artists and a love of furniture design to create conceptual, functional pieces.  While the business partners, and real-life couple, are not designers themselves, they have been up to their necks in the art world for years.  Kwinten has worked in contemporary art for a long time and is currently at WIELS, the Centre for Contemporary Art  in Brussels.  When they are not working on their own projects, Maniera works with architects and artists to develop limited edition furniture. "We are more like curators and then producers," said Jacobs.  "A normal gallery just receives pieces, shows them, and sells them.  Whilst we commission pieces; then, from the beginning we follow the whole progress of the conception of the pieces and then we help to produce the pieces."

The name "Maniera" comes from the Italian architect and writer Giorgio Vasari.  Vasari describes a period in time when artists start to think more independently in their art.  Artists start to break the mould of mimicking their predecessors in order to surpass them and create their own vision.  Today, "maniera" loosely translates to "style" or "manner" in Italian.  Every artist has their own unique style and manner of creating their pieces.  Each of the architects and artists they work with is completely different from one another in terms of their inspirations, the type of architecture art they produce, and how they go about their work.

Maniera's goal is to bring artists and architects ideas into the realm of functional furniture design.  The artists have free reign throughout the whole process.  This collaborative process allows the pieces they create to be innovative and interesting, while retaining the purpose of the pieces.  "We want the designers to be as free as possible" said Jacobs.  In working so closely with the artists, Jacobs and and Lavigne see first hand the mental process of the artists with whom they work.  They can clearly see the difference between how architects and artists react when given the task of designing furniture.  Even within one collection, the inspirations can be completely different.  Maniera's collaboration with OFFICE Kersten Geers and David Van Severen has inspirations from very precise, mathematical ideas and engineering for their three tables.  However, their chair had a strong inspiration from a stool that folds into a walking stick.  Or Anne Holtrop's shelves that look they're made of various minerals.  "Holtrop always starts off his architecture with a concept that has nothing to do with architecture." Each collection has such a different influence and motivation.  The only common thread in the collections is the organic process in which the pieces were created.

Lavigne and Jacobs are very curious, so allowing the artist to control almost the entire process leaves a sense of surprise for what the final product will be.  They are constantly on the search for new artists to work with.  They pay close attention to new artists at galleries, architects at biennials in Chicago or Venice and any other presentation they can find.  "We especially want to work with the younger generation." Often times Jacobs attends lectures, she also has this strange habit of watching architects' lectures on Vimeo. For her, listening to the architect talking about his or her practice is the best way to understand the work.

The schedules of Amaryllis and Kwinten vary throughout the year.  They cycle between a low season during the end of summer and fall, where they work more on the more administrative side of the business.  By winter and spring, they are busier than ever with production and presenting their works.  "I like the busy periods.  Now it's getting really fun."  At the moment, Jacobs is in the process of preparing their presentation for Design Basel so we can only imagine how busy they really are.  Lavigne is in the middle of the production phase with a collaboration with the Architecten de Vylder Vinck Taillieu.  

As for the future of Maniera?  They hope to be setting up more and more collaborations as the years go on. Be on the look out for several more shows presenting new art and architecture driven furniture work by artists and architects like Jonathan Muecke and Studio Mumbai.  Things are moving fast for Maniera and we couldn't be more excited for them. They've had a great deal of success so far and it sounds like they have some big projects planned for years to come.  

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