Award winning Danish artist and designer, Birgitte Due Madsen, has always approached her design work methodically. With each new series, she takes time to understand the materials she wants to work with, learning its properties, its shape, the way it cuts and polishes, to fully understand how best to work with it, not against it. She describes these periods as “elongated projects,” with no definitive start or end, just incremental edits to her designs that work with her materials and iterate throughout to ensure the perfect finished piece.
When invited to display at this year’s Milan Design Week, Birgitte knew she wanted to build on her choice of design style, polychromy, an ancient technique of infusing colour into artwork to resemble the world around them. Only this time, Birgitte had to reimagine her designs in sustainable materials. Together with Mirko Musmeci, Founder and Creative Director of Studio Mirko Musmeci, Birgitte explored her options, and that’s when she and Mirko came across a recent project that was undertaken by the boutique natural stone design firm, SolidNature. The project revolved around the restoration and reuse of over 30 different stone off-cuts in an intricate herringbone design. Mirko specialises in building and nurturing meaningful relationships between designers and artisans to create beautiful installations and artwork.
Following a tour of SolidNature’s showroom with the company’s CEO, David Mahyari, and witnessing the impressive onyx collection for herself, Birgitte was inspired by the beauty of the stones and the colours that switched from transparent to opaque in the same sample. As well as the stones’ longevity and sustainability, Birgitte was determined to reimagine her designs, usually brought to life in resin, in surplus onyx off-cuts. The series – aptly titled Surplus – is a nod to SolidNature’s mission: to make the most of the beauty that nature provides.
SolidNature has one of the world’s largest coloured stone collections, with catalogues boasting over 600 samples to match every colour palate imaginable. Since the firm’s inception in 2011, they have helped design and install some of the most luxurious interiors and exteriors in projects across the world.
The team at SolidNature has worked with Prada, Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld among others.
Surplus is made of eight unique designs of three scalable furniture pieces and five sculptures all created entirely from surplus stone and offcuts from SolidNature’s collection. Each piece has been designed to fit the material available, never going beyond what was already available at the warehouse.
For Birgitte, Surplus is a one step away from her traditional materials of resin, gypsum and concrete and the transition to onyx caused a few challenges for the artist and the craftsmen working on the series. For SolidNature, whose previous work has centred around large scale interiors and exteriors, working in onyx on such a small scale was a new challenge. Through close collaboration, SolidNature’s specialist craftsmen spent over 100-man hours to recreate Birgitte’s designs in the beautiful stone.
The resulting pieces are a sight to behold, a true marriage of Birgitte’s visionary design and SolidNature’s skill and expertise. The juxtaposition between the hard and cold nature of the material, is balanced out by the soft and subtle lines of the designs. The transparency of onyx creates a beautiful glow that illuminates the furniture and sculptures from within, drawing the audience’s eye from colour, to form and back again.
This collaboration is a variation from both parties’ traditional work, but one that came together through shared understanding of sustainable design and a mutual appreciation of the natural beauty of onyx.
Surplus underpins what the future of sustainable design might look like.