Arkitektura Assembly:  Bringing together the world of Design

DESIGN IN MIND: Ingo Maurer

Ingo Mauer is a profound inspiration to many. His passion for light began in the mid 60s and, as we will hear in this interview, it was born from some of his earliest memories of fishing with his Dad and seeing the reflection of light dance with the water. Over the past 50 years, Maurer has grown a startling career, with exhibitions in museums all over the world, commissions from international clients and brands and a company of nearly 80 people. Maurer himself is ever the creative, still imagining and making things as he did when he first started many decades ago. In this interview, we speak of his initial love for light, the films and artists that inspire him and his commitment to not making compromises.

View collection from Ingo Maurer here.

Arkitektura:
I'm calling from San Francisco. I'm so-

Ingo:
Yeah. That's where I got married the first time, for $2.50 at the Civic Center. Okay.

Arkitektura:
That's great.

Ingo:
Yes.

Arkitektura:
I knew that you had lived here and I know that you're a romantic.

Ingo:
Okay. No, I'm not romantic really, but maybe I have a different sensibility.

Arkitektura:
That's right. You definitely have a different sensibility. No question about that.

Ingo:
Yes.

Arkitektura:
I wanted to start off by saying that the way I had decided to research you yesterday and in the last few days was not by looking at things on the internet, or reading interviews, which is what I normally do, but by asking a well-known lighting designer, Andrew Fisher of Arkitektura. And we had an hour long conversation yesterday, and they are completely in love with you and your work, and think you're an absolute master. And I thought it was a great way to start, because it was so personal.

Ingo:
Well, that's very nice of them. Very nice. But yeah, you know, I just do my work and I have a lot of fun and passion for it.

Arkitektura:
That's right. You certainly do. But when you first started, you were not into lighting. You were a graphic designer.

Ingo:
Correct.

Arkitektura:
Which seems really different from lighting.

Ingo:
It seems to be very different, but with typography and letters you learn a lot about light.

Arkitektura:
Can you tell me more about that? Why is that?

Ingo:
Well, if you add certain letters, A, B, C and so on, you have space in between, and that for me makes also light, really.

Arkitektura:
Interesting.

Ingo:
Yes. It took me a while until I got … that I had this idea. Yeah. I was aware of.

Arkitektura:
I think it's something that happens in our life that we do something early on, and then we do something later that seems so different, and then we realize just how similar they are.

Ingo:
Correct, yes.

Arkitektura:
So, when I say light, when I say the word light, what comes to mind? First, what are the thoughts that come to mind, and then what are the feelings that come to mind?

Ingo:
Well, the first thing is with light coming into our mind, of course it could be different things, but I liked very much in my work also the spiritual quality of light. It gives us all such a deep dimension actually, which it goes really straight in our brain, in our soul, and it's … yeah. I think I'm very lucky to work with the material which does not exist.

Arkitektura:
It's interesting that you say it doesn't exist when I think of it existing everywhere.

Ingo:
Yes. Yeah, but let me have the illusion that it's a material which does not exist.

Arkitektura:
Do you mean that it's not tangible? That you can't touch it?

Ingo:
Yes, exactly. I can not take it in my hand, and bent it, and look at it from different side, but I do work with light, you know?

Arkitektura:
Very much so. When you say the spiritual quality, it's so true. Whenever they talk about someone dying, they always talk about seeing this light. When you see spiritual figures it's they're surrounded by this ethereal light. Is that what attracted you initially, the spiritual aspect? Or is that something you've come to as you've done it all these years?

Ingo:
When you are young and you walk in a rainy forest and you have the lights coming in, it's really like going to a … how do you call it? A celebration in church. But you are by yourself and there's no crucifix or nothing like this, but it's the spirit which catches you inside.

Arkitektura:
Beautifully said. Did you grow up with a spiritual or in a religious family?

Ingo:
No. No, no, no, no. No. No. Also, I'm raised partly Catholic, but not really convincingly, on this island I grew up. My father was already a Buddhist, in eastern philosophy. But in a small island you just go to school and somehow you run with everybody to church. It's a small island.

But the spirit, really, of the light, is when my father was originally a fisherman, and later become an inventor. But I was going on the lake fishing with him, and of course the play of light on the waves, and the play of lights in the trees next to the shore, marvelous. I worked with that impression in a few projects, also one for Issey Miyake.

Arkitektura:
Another very playful person I imagine, Issey Miyake.

Ingo:
Yes. He is wonderful. He is really wonderful.

Arkitektura:
I cross the bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge every day. I work in Sausalito.

Ingo:
How lucky you are.

Arkitektura:
I am. I really do … and I think about the light all the time on the water, and how beautiful it is on the coast.

Ingo:
Yes. But also the rolling clouds coming in into Sausalito. That inspires me all the time when I'm there.

Arkitektura:
Yes, that fog, that kind of … it is. It's a magical quality for sure. So your dad was a Buddhist. That seems very progressive for that time.

Ingo:
Yes. In the '30s, yes.

Arkitektura:
You also said that he was an inventor, and you in many ways are an inventor as well. At least that's how I see you.

Ingo:
Yes.

Arkitektura:
So do you feel like he inspired you in that way?

Ingo:
There's some kind of … it was a very spiritual connection between us. Also … and this is terrible to say … when I was 15 and he died, I somehow was relieved, because he was very strict. Very strict. But of course, you think about your father, your parents and what they have given you, and he has given me a lot, and he has given me discipline in a good sense, and this spiritual kind of influence.

Arkitektura:
I don't think it's terrible to say. I think it's very difficult to live with someone that's very strict, especially if you're a creative thinker.

Ingo:
Yeah. Well, I wasn't in the way that I was really a creative thinker at that time. I did do things, playing, things. I was in a way creative, but you are not conscious of it. And that's the most intense part in your life.

Arkitektura:
When something so strong is there but you don't know?

Ingo:
Yes. Yes.

Arkitektura:
Do you remember when you started realizing that you were?

Ingo:
Well, when I was studying typography of course then it started to, and it started the desire to make more than just typography. It grew, it grew very much, because later on I went to a graphic academy here in Munich, and I had the urge of creating all the time, up to this very date.

Arkitektura:
Yes. I love that. I love that you still have that urge. I mean, I think one of the things we spoke about yesterday with Peter and Andrew is that it's extraordinary how you just continue to create. Like, there's this insatiable, or constant desire to make something and design something, create something. You also mentioned early on that you got married here in San Francisco.

Ingo:
Yes. It was in 1962.

Arkitektura:
Where was your wife from?

Ingo:
She was also from Germany. We lived about two and a half years just together, and actually we didn't want to get married at that time. We just thought that marriage is a nuisance. But then we want to go back and live in England. That was a compromise for me. But we wanted to have a cabin of our own on the France, so we had to marry very, very quickly, because it wouldn't take us without the marriage license.

Arkitektura:
And did all of that happen? Did you move to England and buy the cabin in France?

Ingo:
Yeah. We got the cabin and we lived in London, which we choose. For me, as a joyful compromise. But then we were expecting our first child, and England at that time was very strict about immigration and working permit, etc., all this, so it didn't happen. And the first daughter was about to arrive, so we went back to Germany to her parents.

Arkitektura:
And your first child was a daughter.

Ingo:
Yes. Sarah, yeah. Yeah. She's mad at me that she isn't born in America, because she loves California. And she goes three, four times a year, she goes.

Arkitektura:
No way. Three, four? She really loves it.

Ingo:
Yeah, but she has a kind of a spiritual thing somewhere on the mountain etc., I don't know exactly what.

Arkitektura:
Well, it's a beautiful place there's no question.

Ingo:
Yes.

Arkitektura:
But Germany is beautiful too. You were married for how many years?

Ingo:
17. And then my wife couldn't bare my success. She felt like she lives in my shadow, and I didn't want that. I was really fighting for four years that the breakup will not be, but it happened.

Then I was on the market for a while. It was a new experience, because emancipation has done a lot of things, fantastic, beautiful. We, men, have never been really aware of how lucky we are that this emancipation came upon us, and also cleaned our brain concerning a connection with a woman.

Arkitektura:
Did you meet someone else? Did you get remarried?

Ingo:
Yes I did, in Las Vegas.

Arkitektura:
No.

Ingo:
We were living together for 21 years, and I said, "Let's celebrate your 50th birthday. We go to Las Vegas." She did not know that I had the idea to marry her there. We arrived and we had just a few secret friends there, and it was a very, very nice wedding, having a big state … anyway. We enjoyed, we enjoyed. And unfortunately she died three years ago on pancreas cancer.

Arkitektura:
I'm really sorry to hear. I knew that your wife had passed away. I'm very sorry.

Ingo:
I really miss her a lot, because she … and I have to say this very clear … she helped to built up what I did. And she was a very warm soul, with beautiful language, and she let me go up like a sky going up, up, up. And when she felt I'm too far away, she gave a little … how do you say? You pull the line a little bit, so I knew maybe I should go not so far. That was the deal between us.

Arkitektura:
It's a beautiful way of saying it. It's a beautiful way of saying it.

Ingo:
Thank you.

Arkitektura:
I'm really pleased that she supported your growth.

Ingo:
No, we had a very good relation. A very, very good relation.

And I have a company now with 70 people, and I'm 85, and I go on working first of all of the wonderful job, which comes along, these challenges. And then, of course, I have to support all my employees, which are for me, for a long, long time. It's like a big family.

Arkitektura:
That's so great. That's so great.

Ingo:
Yeah.

Arkitektura:
Yeah, I mean what I was saying is that it can be really difficult when someone you're close with is intimidated by your success, and it can be the opposite of fact of when someone celebrates your success. It can make you go so much further.

Ingo:
I understood her very well and I tried … her, because she was creative. I tried to have that she has an office by herself, and it's in her name, but she didn't catch this. Yeah, anyway. Now we're living all to all with my first wife, and we say, "Hello. Wonderful, how are you? Can I help you?" etc.

Arkitektura:
No way. You live like essentially next door to each other?

Ingo:
Yes, yes, yes, yes.

Arkitektura:
What a-

Ingo:
We bought that … it was a big place and it wasn't probably the best decision, because it was difficult with the kids. It was always something, "They're coming to you, and I'm coming …" yeah. So it was not togetherness of raising the kids. It was her kids.

Arkitektura:
That's how it felt? That's how it felt to you?

Ingo:
Yeah.

Arkitektura:
How many children do you have?

Ingo:
I have two daughters and four grandchildren, two girls and two boys.

Arkitektura:
And did your two daughters become creative like you?

Ingo:
Yes they have this. And my eldest daughter … one daughter is working with me since 12, 15 years. And the other daughter, which is often in California, she has a very good eye, very creative and good ideas, and she works unfortunately only part with me.

Arkitektura:
But how nice that your daughter … both of them work with you though in some way.

Ingo:
Yes. I feel lucky.

Arkitektura:
Yeah. And that's really special.

One of the things that came up yesterday is that unlike many designers, you really have creative control, I think, in many ways. You really have this autonomy over what you can make, and there's a lot of freedom there. Does that sound right? And why is that?

Ingo:
Well, to be free is really you have to … you go to the limits to try. And when I come up with a new idea and I talk to my wonderful team I work with, they say, "Ingo, come on. You can not do that. No, no. And then this is this technical kind of thing." And I have a Californian working with me since many years and say, "Ingo, it's a great idea. Do it. Do it, do it. Don't listen to the others." So I have a support, because Isagani is his name, and he is more free than all my German colleagues unfortunately, in brain.

Arkitektura:
It's really interesting.

Ingo:
It shows that we still, in Europe, we live still behind lots of fences. And that's what I learned in America. And that's what intrigued me in America, that you don't feel the fences. It was a big relief for me as a young man.

Arkitektura:
Why didn't you stay?

Ingo:
Because what a woman wants wants God.

Arkitektura:
But you would've stayed maybe?

Ingo:
I would have liked to stay. I would have liked to stay, and I would have tried to make it out there. It's fascinating, no? I mean, San Francisco was of course very different at that time. Now, there's much more green, etc. all this, that Russian River, canoeing down, fantastic. Beautiful.

Arkitektura:
Have you been to Lake Tahoe?

Ingo:
Yes, of course. Yes, yes, yes. I've been four times to Burning Man.

Arkitektura:
That's right. I know you do love Burning Man. That's right.

Ingo:
Yeah, but it sounds … I just had a guy who works with me coming back and he said … he spoke about 70,000 people. When I was there, the first time it was just around 30, and then it grew. So by the end, I've been the last time there, it was just slightly above 40,000.

Arkitektura:
Wow. So you were at the very early Burning Man's. The very early one.

Ingo:
Yeah. Not the earliest unfortunately, not on Baker's Beach. I would have liked to participate there.

Arkitektura:
What is it about Burning Man that you … what do you like about Burning Man?

Ingo:
Burning Man unlocks all rules if you understand what I mean. It's I think breaking the rules [inaudible 00:20:09] and taking on the … how do you say? The challenge, the risk, is very, very important. It's still for me, in all levels of life.

Arkitektura:
Yeah. I mean, I would argue that that's what you do with your work.

Ingo:
Yes. Yes, I try. But not on intention. It's just a feel. You can not construct something breaking this. It has to … with me, it comes really from the feeling. That's where it starts.

Arkitektura:
So what happens? I'm not a big fan of the question about process, but I am curious. What happens? A feeling comes and what do you do?

Ingo:
Well, I have a few things in mind, yeah, a collection, and I have been going around bragging for about 30 years. And then you think of it once in a while and say maybe it's right moment. I have to get it out of my system. And then I start to realize it. Sometimes very much against the will of my … no. Attitude of my team.

But I believe very much in convincing, I believe very much in seducing. Yeah. And being very, very much aware of very kind of sensible … how do you say? Perceptions. Perception is a very, very strong impact on my work.

You know, for instance I told you I lived on the sea, on the lake, with my father, and you see the wind, and you see the light dancing on the waves, and you see the populus trees in the wind, and they have a lighter side and a darker side and things like this, and that has somehow been really … it impressed me so much, and I think of it in a very gentle way. And from that idea, I did this one piece for Issey Miyake, which is now … he gave up his shop in London, and it's now in the Design Museum in London.

Arkitektura:
Yeah. I love that piece, it's beautiful. It's interesting to me that given that the sea is so inspiring to you, that you don't live by the sea anymore.

Ingo:
That's true. But I live when I have time enough among olive trees in Italy. And there, when the wind goes, the olive trees make a nice sound, make a nice light, so I dream there. And the sea is not so far away. I've been sailing with Sicilian friends many, many years in a row, and I like very much the sea, but I decided for a countryside.

Arkitektura:
It sounds so lovely. I love that. Sailing is so freeing.

So your team, if you come up with an idea and your team says, "That's crazy. That's impossible," aside from the American who thinks more open-mindedly, you don't listen to that. You slowly convince them.

Ingo:
Yeah. Of course some doubts coming and thinking, but if I think the idea is good and I can convince, and I'm convinced, I do it. And I invest sometimes a lot of time, lot of money also, but in the end I bring it to the market and there it's decided whether it's a success or not. As I said before, risk on all levels of life is important.

Arkitektura:
That's right, without risk how are you going to discover something new? Yeah. And in fact, specifically this Issey Miyake piece really does remind me of the sea, of the water.

Ingo:
Well, another thing is, the Miyake piece is … you know, it was supposed to do light, but I made the leaves, the silver leaves moving by ventilators inside the space of the piece. It was like a zeppelin in a way. And this way it reflected differently and we shoot the light on those leaves, and it reflected down to the customers. So you didn't have a very monotonous light when you tried something on.

Arkitektura:
So it's really like a performance.

Ingo:
I don't want to go so far, but it's a kind of sensitive thinking of the people who buy. It's not a dead light, but it's changing while you try on his beautiful things.

Arkitektura:
It's lovely. I love that. The reason I say it's an installation is because one of the things that we discussed yesterday with Peter and Andrew is how your work, it's not static any way. It's just like you're saying, that there's this movement to it, and there's a narrative to it, there's a strong feeling that there's a story there.

Ingo:
Well, I'm not a person who analyses. I just go on what I feel so far. And I try to make no compromises.

Arkitektura:
I love that, but making no compromises?

Ingo:
Little let's say. Little compromises.

Arkitektura:
I mean, I think what's the challenge of that is that you actually have to make it work, and you have to make an idea work in a scientific I can't say, but in an engineering way.

Ingo:
Yes.

Arkitektura:
And you're able to do that. That's kind of the extraordinary thing. It's not just like you're coming up with the ideas, but you're able to actually make it work to manifest the idea.

Ingo:
Yeah, but I'm fascinated by lightness, not heavy, but lightness, which is sometimes difficult to succeed in Germany, because normally we are more heavy, more rational and things like this. I've never tried to run away from that, but as I said before, I do what I feel.

But I want to add, I'm very fascinated by the new technique. And lightness, I have to explain is, of course, being done with the new lighting sources, like the YaYaHo for instance, which is now more than 20, 25 years, that was an inspiration I had in Haiti. At New Year's Eve, coming out with friends of what they call in French [French 00:28:44], and then you find this huge, giant bulb over a little piazza, but not with a socket, but just sorted on it, and that was 500 watt. And it was such a poetic impression that we have to do it in a very safe way. Came back to New York to my place and I started immediately to work on it but it took four years until everything is accomplished.

Arkitektura:
First of all, I love that story. I love that it happened in Haiti. What were you doing in Haiti?

Ingo:
Well, being with friends for New Year's Eve.

Arkitektura:
Amazing choice, to go to Haiti.

Ingo:
Well, that's how many years ago? This is more than 25 years ago.

Arkitektura:
Yeah. And so much has happened there. And the other thing that I like about this story is that even though it took four years, you stuck with it and you knew that you … well, you didn't compromise.

Ingo:
I was bankrupt more or less. I went to the back and showed them, please give me more money. And showed him what I'm about to finish, and then the director said, "Do you think you can sell this stupid things? Why don't you make something rustic?" Well, I didn't get the loan. I went back and we somehow survived.

Arkitektura:
It's incredible. And then what happened? The piece came out and what happened?

Ingo:
Well, it was immediately a success. Immediately. The people loved it, the lightness, the new technique and new aesthetics.

Arkitektura:
Revolutionary.

Ingo:
This was … well, revolution yes, in a way it was a revolution, but it's a strong word revolution.

Arkitektura:
It is. It is. Even though you had no money, you didn't give up.

Ingo:
No, I didn't give up. No. No. No, I didn't give up. I was so convinced.

Arkitektura:
It's great. It's great. And it's great that it had such great success.

Ingo:
Yeah. Yes. Yeah, yeah. In general, I would say that I'm a human being, or I'm trying to be human being. I feel blessed. Really, blessed.

Arkitektura:
Have you always felt that way?

Ingo:
Yes, I did. I did. This might be something which I got from my father, but yeah. I've been always like that.

Arkitektura:
Yeah, because I think feeling blessed it's not about your circumstances. It's about the way in which you perceive your circumstances. I mean, part of it is your circumstance of course, but you can have the same circumstances and not feel blessed. But your character, just like you were saying earlier, is of lightness. And that's your character, that's like your psychological character. It's something that's light, that doesn't want heavy things.

Ingo:
So you analyze me. I don't love it, being analyzed. Because, I tell you why.

Arkitektura:
Tell me why.

Ingo:
Once you are analyzed, you are not free anymore. You stand beside yourself and watch what you are doing. And I enjoy very much the kind of subconsciousness to work.

Arkitektura:
To come through.

Ingo:
To a result, yes. I don't want to be … I'll say okay, I was analyzed, or am I analyzed, and do things like this, or things like this. It becomes too … it goes into your brain and soul and you're not free anymore.

Arkitektura:
I know exactly what you mean, and that's very true, yeah.

Ingo:
No, this is, I think it's of course … analyzing is in many cases very helpful, but once you have done it you are not a virgin anymore.

Arkitektura:
That's true. It can be very limiting. I mean, once labels are put upon you, it … I mean, that's I think probably one of the hard things about being well known, is that people so badly want to understand and categorize, so that maybe they can be that way, or maybe they can be inspired in that way.

Ingo:
Yeah, that's very difficult anyway, because the people around the globe don't know where to put me. Am I Italian? Or am I an English guy? They always would like to file me into something and I don't like to be filed.

Arkitektura:
Well, I didn't think about it culturally, but that's true. There's that. I thought maybe is he a designer, are you an artist, are you an inventor, are you an engineers, are you all of those things?

Ingo:
When you say so, yes.

Arkitektura:
When you gather your team, is it very collaborative?

Ingo:
Yes. Yes, yes. Without this great team I wouldn't be there where I am. This is absolutely right. I had a really great, great, wonderful people who work with me for a long time, which is very good. And on the other hand it could be sort of a fence. And I always speak with my team that we would have to stand upside down and think new again, in a different way, not in the sort of common way of thinking. That's very important.

Arkitektura:
Are they able to do that?

Ingo:
Some yes and some just got the spirit of what I want only a while later. And then they come and say, "Ingo, I did not know your thoughts. I didn't understand you at the beginning."

Arkitektura:
But now they do, now they understand.

Ingo:
Inshallah.

Arkitektura:
That's right. Inshallah. It's such a hard thing, I think, to say to yourself, okay, I'm going to … even as a creative, to say to yourself, I'm going to think differently. I'm going to force myself, or push myself to think differently. For you, it comes naturally, but for someone for whom it might not come naturally, it's such a challenge.

Ingo:
It can be a pain for them, yes. It's anyway, to dive in another way of thinking can be very strenuous.

Arkitektura:
What are times when you feel most satisfied? When you feel most … I don't know, happy isn't the right word, but content.

Ingo:
I'm very content with people. I love human beings. I really love when we are in a good group of people and we enjoy every moment of what we are doing. This is unconsciously doing, and that's, of course, a work which I have to do every day to make the people aware of the things, or they make me aware of it. Sometimes they make me aware of things. And then I have to say I agree or I don't agree, but it enriches my life.

For instance, say I come up with a new idea, and I think with whom of the 14 people should I realize this idea. So I pick a person who think would fit to this work. I explained it with little drawings, or little model etc., and then he starts. And I pass by many times and I see that he goes into a completely wrong direction. And I let him. Of course that costs money and time, but it gives me also, gives the chance that he really gets involved, and it gives me a chance that there might be some adding to it which would make these things really, let's say more round. Do you understand what I mean?

Arkitektura:
I understand exactly what you mean, yeah. And what it makes me think of is, because you were saying, and sometimes they might do something wrong and that mistake costs money but learned something from it. Failure is such a strong word, but do you believe that there's many failures between the idea and what comes to market?

Ingo:
It happened twice. I thought I should go a little bit more into design and I failed. I really failed. Also, it was a nice little thing, a nice wonderful little light, inspired by a tennis ball and the reflector, etc. That was a failure. And ever since, I try to stay away from design. I mean, the kind of design I design. You understand what I mean?

Arkitektura:
I do. I get what you mean, but I want to hear more about that a little bit. Like, when you say that design, I love the way you said it.

Ingo:
Design is not my enemy, but I think there's beautiful, fantastic design. If you know, you take Charles Eames. This was absolutely great, a great design. But nowadays, design has become most of all kind of superficial and very market orientated. And this, I can not cope with it very well.

Arkitektura:
Well, it's interesting that you raise Eames, because there were a couple of … we talked about how …

Ingo:
I met him. I had lunch with him in Milano. Wonderful.

Arkitektura:
How was it?

Ingo:
Wonderful. I mean, this man was really so in love with human being, really. I felt very, very lucky. And then some of our agents in France gave him the bulb, my first lamp, and then he wrote me a letter and he congratulated me. And that was, of course, fantastic for me to have such words as he used, from a great human being like he was.

Arkitektura:
I'm so glad that he inspired you in that way. Interestingly yesterday it was precisely Eames that they were talking about in comparison to you. Do you feel similar?

Ingo:
That would be really … how to say the right word … it doesn't come the right word, but, I mean, to compare what I do, and he did. I mean, he was just incredible. Also, his wife. They had this very Californian influence on me. In San Francisco when the showroom was … and yeah. It was good. It was good. But I feel different. Yeah. People can put me as a designer, or an artist, or whatever they want, as long as I survive with what I do.

Arkitektura:
It's exactly what I thought you were going to say. But the thing also about you and Eames is that you also had a woman that supported you and that believed in you. And that's similar to him.

Ingo:
Yes, yes, yes. Yeah. Yeah. Woman behind a man is very, very important.

Arkitektura:
It's important to have that kind of support and that love.

Ingo:
You know, we do a lot of one of a kind things for special clients. I can try many things because people pay for it, but I haven't. Now you really can go wild if the chemistry between you and the clients is working. That's the first thing. The chemistry has to work with the other side. It's not just about making money, but it's about the human exchange.

Arkitektura:
And normally, do you feel that chemistry?

Ingo:
Yes, very much so. And I declined to do a few things because I didn't like the person at all.

Arkitektura:
And the chemistry just wasn't there.

Ingo:
I told them frankly, "Listen, the chemistry doesn't work between us, so no." And then they were shocked, etc. Or sometimes they understand. Yeah. We do quite a bit of one of a kind things in the US.

And you know, I have this very, very big project in Brazil. It's a broken egg, which is going to be in a park, in Inhotim. It's called Belo Horizonte. And the egg is 25 meter long and 50 meter high, and you enter … it has a crack. I think the idea's that the beauty of an egg is so perfect that once it has a crack you are more aware of the beauty.

Arkitektura:
Like that Leonard Cohen song about how … I don't remember exactly the line, but when you see a crack, that's when the light comes in. That crack's actually-

Ingo:
Yeah. I didn't know that, but it sounds really good.

Arkitektura:
Yeah. It's kind of wabi-sabi a little bit too, the things that are-

Ingo:
Yes, yes, yes, yes.

Arkitektura:
Yeah, that the seeming imperfections actually highlight the beauty.

Ingo:
See also a beauty in what the people call ugly or not perfect, to see beauty in something very ordinary. For instance, I took a steel strainer, these once an ordinary object, and turned into a beautiful lamp, which makes light.

Arkitektura:
Making the ordinary extraordinary. I always loved that line.

Ingo:
Yes. Yes.

Arkitektura:
Because there's so many things … we pass by so much that we just ignore, but if we gave it a closer look, or highlighted it in some way we would see just how magical it is. 

Ingo:
I had also a period and might go back to it. I made a big five meter, 50 long mural I would say, but all of sponges. Only sponges. And it's hanging in the [inaudible 00:47:18], but really fascinating, really nice.

So I stand with a woman who helps me, and we dye the sponges, and put in washing machine, and doing all these things. And then I place it in order, how I see it. It's a biotope. I did two greens and I did one kind of Yves Klein blue.

Arkitektura:
Yves Klein blue. Yes. I was in front of Yves Klein, one of his blue paintings. at the moment, and yeah, it's so beautiful.

Ingo:
Yeah. I did a job for somebody who lives on 740 Park Avenue and he has the big five meter long Yves Klein blue, which he lent to the Metropolitan, but then they brought it over with a crane.

Arkitektura:
Amazing. That must have been a fun … how was that project?

Ingo:
It's incredible. It was fantastic. And to be a witness there … yeah.

Arkitektura:
Yeah. I'm sure. And you got to do a light piece for him?

Ingo:
Yes, yes, yes. I did a couple of things for him.

Arkitektura:
Just for his home?

Ingo:
For his home, yes. And I did one, you know my Porca Miseria? You know, the broken dishes?

Arkitektura:
Yes. Yes.

Ingo:
Yeah. I did for him something rather small, but very, very erotic and it hangs in the same place. Very. I wish I didn't sell it, but we need money to live on and to pay the bills.

Arkitektura:
Interesting, yeah. Well, first of all what's incredible about that is someone can call you and say, "Please come and make me something original. Make me something that nobody else has." And you said it's erotic, so it's sexual.

Ingo:
Yes. I used porcelain figures, and I arranged them, partly broken, partly not, and partly you see everything of the naked people. It's really very nice. Very, very nice. I don't even have a photograph of it.

Arkitektura:
And you wouldn't be able to recreate it.

Ingo:
Very, very difficult. Very difficult. Each piece we are doing, we had just finished one, it takes about 10 days with four people as assistants to do that. And I like to do it, because it's like drawing on the spot, and changing the thing, and researching for the right piece of porcelain. I like that work very much. And then I have the assistance of my daughter Sarah.

Arkitektura:
That's great.

Ingo:
Okay.

Arkitektura:
So she was a witness to that.

Ingo:
Yeah. There's a wonderful piece hanging in Cambridge for a client. He came to me and he wanted to have something special. And I made it for him. It's a huge one and it's really hanging over dining, another piece I would like to have back.

Arkitektura:
I'm just amazed by this notion that someone can call and say, "I'd like Ingo Maurer to make … I'd like you to make me a piece just for me." I mean, it's kind of a … what a gift to be able to … what a thing to have. I mean, that's incredible.

And also, the reason I ask, could you recreate it, is because I can't imagine that you could, because even if you could practically recreate it, let's say you knew the parts and this and that, there's a feeling and an emotion that comes when you're making something that how can you recreate that? It's like I write poetry, how could I write that same poem again, in the same feeling, with the same words without looking at it again? It would be so hard to recreate that moment of emotion. At least for me.

Ingo:
No, but this is the exciting part of the work of doing Porca Miseria, because you stand and you work, and it's a hard work, and it's not just playing around. But as the thing grows in front of you, ideas come, and sensibility, and perception is very, very … we are aware of. And that makes the joy of doing something like that.

Arkitektura:
You know, talking about poetry, there's-

Ingo:
Talking about what?

Arkitektura:
Poetry.

Ingo:
Yeah, poetry. Yes.

Arkitektura:
Your pieces, not all of them, but most of them have these great names to them.

Ingo:
Yes.

Arkitektura:
It's not like lamp … well, some of them are lamp one, lamp two, but you've thought very much of that aspect of it as well. Why is the language important?

Ingo:
I think a name is important. A name for a product is very important. And a name also, what you feel like is important. I think names are super important.

Arkitektura:
Do you usually know what the name is? Or do you say, "Maybe this, or maybe that, or … " you play for a while to figure it out?

Ingo:
Well, sometimes the name is most after a day or two days I'm quite sure what I would like to call it.

Just today at my studio, somebody we work with, he presented an idea, and a very nice idea, which we are perfect for realizing it. And I had immediately an idea of the name, but I don't know whether I keep it. So I let it grow for a couple of days and then we see.

Arkitektura:
This is going to sound like a totally random question, but Sarah, you named her Sarah obviously, did her name come to you right away?

Ingo:
Sarah?

Arkitektura:
Yeah.

Ingo:
Well, it's my daughter, it's not a [crosstalk 00:54:33].

Arkitektura:
I know, but when she was born did you know that that was going to be her name?

Ingo:
No. Actually not, because my wife at that time, she was convinced that it's going to be a boy. So we talked all the time about Ivan. And then we had Sarah. Yeah.

Arkitektura:
Changing gears, film. I don't know why this came up, but I was curious if film inspires you, if you have a love for film. Do you feel inspired by movies?

Ingo:
Yes. I go too seldom to the movie, but of course. Watching a movie, it creates a mood, an emotion in myself and there is this power I get from the film that helps me to carry on.

And this is the same thing for my big heroes, like Calder is one of my heroes. And of course all the others like Brancusi, and also in design, like Castiglioni and Magistretti, all this. I was lucky to be friends with him, really friends. I didn't copy them, but they were convincing individuals and that gave me a lot of power.

Arkitektura:
I'm curious who are your other heroes when you think about that. Well, Eames I would imagine.

Ingo:
Yeah, Eames of course is really number one. Number one hero is Eames. But it's also true, because I had twice wonderful lunch, one in Milano and one in Paris, and that always gave me a big lift.

Arkitektura:
Yes. I mean, having that connection.

Ingo:
Yeah.

Arkitektura:
And who else are your heroes?

Ingo:
God, I have to scratch my almost not existing brain now.

Arkitektura:
Well, you said a lot actually. Castiglioni and Magistretti are really great ones. I love-

Ingo:
Yes, yes. And of course it's … I mean, I like Cy Twombly is a great, wonderful person. Of course, I like the people of the pop era.

Arkitektura:
That's right.

Ingo:
And I love Rauschenberg a lot. There was a wonderful exhibition in the MOMA when I was there last.

Arkitektura:
Yes. It was a great exhibition.

Ingo:
That was very good. Very, very good. And these were also the moments. This was the moment and it fits precisely what America did to me, to make me free. And their art also helped me to become more free.

Arkitektura:
You mean, these artists, Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly.

Ingo:
Yes. Cy and Rauschenberg yes. Oldenburg and of course …

Arkitektura:
One of the things I love about Cy Twombly that I learned recently, because I just did this whole podcast series on art, or on art that people really have difficulty with, and Cy Twombly and Robert Rauschenberg, those are all artists … Andy Warhol, they were all artists that we were speaking about that people find difficult and don't understand. And one of the things I loved about Cy Twombly was that he was a master craftsman, he was incredible at drawing and yet when you look at his work he just let all of that go. Just true freedom of breaking away from rules, like you were talking about with Burning Man.

Ingo:
Breaking the rules, but it looks like casual, and it is not casual. That's what I really, really like about his work. Very much. And what I like in works of others is if they are not dictating, that they leave a lot of space for your own imagination. That's for me most important in art.

Arkitektura:
Yes, absolutely. The classics, where you see exactly what the story is, it doesn't leave too much for the imagination. No, I do love that. I really do. And I think that's why people find it challenging though, because they do want to be told what to think, or what to see, what they're looking at. But when you're looking at say abstract art, you have to make those connections yourself. And that can be hard.

Ingo:
Yes, but then you have to put a kind of instruction, how you should think. Or you have the description of what he thought, or she thought. And I like to wonder through the world with open eyes and senses, and I somehow swallow it and in someways it comes out in other way, or it's just the feeling I had.

Like, Brancusi is of course one of my top, top heroes. I like Calder because his art was unpretentious, and yet very, very sensible. These qualities of an artist, this is what takes me. It's not just admiration, but it convinces me of the human being behind it.

Arkitektura:
It's beautifully said. Well, I really enjoyed speaking with you.

Ingo:
Me too. Thank you very much.