RAMPEL DESIGNS & CONCEPT
The particular character of the Rampel Designs product lies in its being the result of two worlds, both in space and in time.
First, it is contemporary by the simple fact that it is being conceived now, day by day. This does not imply that it is in fashion or trendy. Yet it is being manufactured with the same methods and standards of the master cabinet-makers of old. A carpenter makes each piece of furniture by himself, from beginning to end; affordable labour and minimal machinery, have allowed the design a freedom of technical difficulty that mass produced goods cannot. While all the designs and templates are developed by Marc, they are executed by his team of carpenters and polishers, who work at their own pace.
Second, Marc was influenced by Western conceptions of taste and beauty. Yet he has since lived and worked in Africa for more than 25 years, and has been an arduous collector of its traditional art and artefacts, and has also been the co-manager of one of its foremost galleries of contemporary African art gallery Watatu. While his fluid lines may be traced to the omnipresent Art Deco in Belgium, the lack of decoration stems from a more modern minimalist tendency. The sculptural shapes and the impression of the pieces having been carved, possibly have their origins in traditional African furniture, which is always sculpted from the solid block, never assembled.
Although the type of furniture may be Western and Marc’s aim may all along have been to find a niche in that particular marker, it is always made by skilled and patient African hands and from the very soil of this continent: its most precious hardwoods.
The Industrial area workshop was home to Rampel Designs until the beginning of 2015, when they re-located to Baba Dogo off Thika Road highway, where Rampel Designs continues to flourish with Marc at the helm, his son and assistant-designer Rik, and its 50 employees.
The work starts by imagining. Quite a feat to three-dimensionally hold a picture in the mind's eye! I then need to freeze it very soon after by quickly and roughly sketching and adding notes to remember elements that are not obvious in the poor little sketches. The main job of creating is done!
In the studio, I immediately jump from tiny sketch to the full scale design and production of the several 1/1 templates necessary for each piece.
Then, finally I hand over the templates to my foreman and selected carpenter. The construction can be painfully slow but I do greatly enjoy the sweet pain of being forced to be patient. To see the creation come alive day by day is wondrous. My workshop, my talented staff! What tools I am bequeathed with!
The first prototype done, I start on the fine-tuning, if necessary. I do allow designs to evolve over the years and often to pawn subsidiary versions. In this 'metier' and it is rare to stick to 'bespoke' pieces, one-off pieces, as it is economically not viable. But it happens, at great expense to the client. As a design-excersise I now often indulge in reproducing 'classics' which are not copyright protected. It teaches one a great deal about the many designer tricks of old.
"My work shares the curve with the Art Deco style, not however the serpentine curve. Moreover, my designs are stripped of any applied decoration and do not attempt to emulate nature. I want the volume to speak through a line which draws its inspiration from geometrical shapes." mvr.
"My inspiration is without a doubt the human body and if this doesn't sound sexist, preferably female. My art-form, furniture, demand that the creations are asthetically attractive and unique. The creation should however also be very comfortable and practical. Quite constraint to marry these two demands. But then again, constraints can actually be great creative drives. Think of the rules for the writing of a sonnet."