Artist Talk with Thies Wulf, multidisciplinary designer and creative director based in Berlin and one of the first pop-up residents in POP KUDAMM's Creative Village. About collecting as a neurosis, turning your own living room into a museum, the maximum pleasure of designing, POP KUDAMM as a Gallic village, and the creation of "real" places.
Thies Wulf is a true hunter and collector. At least when it comes to art and all kinds of creative curiosities. But above all, he is a lover of details, which he puts in scene with constant enthusiasm. He can, as it seems when watching him, never sit back since somehow he always has to arrange things in a room in a better, more interesting ergo more beautiful way with some smart little touches here and there. Suddenly a sculpture stands somewhere else, a carpet or cushion lies on the floor, a plant flourishes and a “Disco” sign on the wall glows in neon red. An affectionate quality that is reflected in his various works as a designer for fashion brands such as Stone Island, Eduard Dressler, Dorothee Schumacher, as well as in store design for various brands in Osaka, Milan, London, New York, Seoul, Rome and Munich, among others. Currently, this is reflected in his new design manufactory venture ” Holyprop ” with the first product family of glass holders: The love for details and the orchestration of beautiful things.
It was precisely this label – Holyprop – with which he moved into the Creative Village of POP KUDAMM as one of the first pop-up residents ever, intending to write a piece of early history of this new and exciting place. A story to be told – in the middle of Berlin’s City West.
At the end of his time at POP KUDAMM, we did the same as his visitors and met Thies on the straw mats in front of his showroom, where he had daily conversations with design-savvy Berliners, sightseers, students, tourists, party people, and many more. To chitchat about design and art, personal treasures and our own living room as a museum
You have been at POP KUDAMM for the past two months to present Holyprop. Your current design series with which anyone:r of us can transform his or her own home into a museum, a gallery. Briefly summarized in one sentence: What is Holyprop?
The name Holyprop already includes the basic idea of the company. HOLYPROP is a design manufactory that takes care of the favorite (holy) pieces (props) of a person who is a collector or simply a beauty enthusiast. Our team designs, develops, produces and distributes innovative presentation showcases. In the end, the objects to be presented can be anything: Art, jewelry, heirlooms, flea market items, collectibles and and and… Even a crumpled concert ticket from your pocket, like the one I recently got from the band “Editors”, can look like a sculpture when placed under it.
Behind all designs is the vision of the designer. What was your inspiration for Holyprop and how did you come up with this particular design idea?
I myself have been an excessive collector of curious things and objects for many years – mainly art and just curiosities in general, such as root seeps, collectible plates from places in the US, 7″ vinyl with crazy covers, vintage jewelry, vintage photography, pins from Japan, and many others. At some point I wanted to “display” the objects altar-like at home and didn’t find any suitable products in the furnishings section. So why shouldn’t there be “frame systems” for three-dimensional objects when picture frames for two-dimensional artworks are out there, was my question.
With the Holyprop mount family, you have created a product line with which everyone can present his or her own art objects at home or in other personal areas. Unlike a museum, however, this tends to be hidden from the eyes of others, unless you are a guest in such places. Have you had opportunities to see your products showcase art in private settings? And if so, what are some of your favorite pieces revealed under your glass domes?
Yes, I’ve actually been very fortunate to see the “mounters” filled at customers’ homes. For example, my first customer is a design-savvy woman who always wanted a permanent place for 3 of her favorite miniature sculptures and found it with the so-called “Wall Mounts” in neon yellow. My personal favorite at her home is a very delicate, gold-colored metal mesh sculpture – a true eye-catcher. Another customer is a well-known art collector who now has 3 fuchsia “wall mounts” and a customized piece hanging in his bathroom. Showing white porcelain sculptures by an exceptional artist.
In your work, and especially with Holyprop, we can follow up on Thies Wulf’s view of the day-to-day life. The view of a real collector. What does collecting mean to you and what fascinates you about staging everyday objects, for example with Holyprop?
Good question! Collecting can sometimes – probably even very often – be a neurotic act: You can’t help but have to buy this or that to further enrich your own collection. I personally love curiosities, among other things, and came across this subject through literature like THE KEEPER or John Soane’s Museum in London and other Cabinets of Curiosities. In our home in Berlin we have the luxury to have a lot of Holyprops standing and hanging and these are continuously re-filled and scenographically-artfully cultivated. I am my own curator, so to speak, and organize small exhibitions at home. Funnily enough, the objects on display always provide a stimulus for communication – our guests always want to know exactly what the things exhibited are all about. Also interesting for me are my so-called “Sample Sculptures”, which I put together from a wide variety of objects, materials, etc. to create new entities (sculptures) – like a DJ – only visually-materially sampling – and thus always come up with new cases.
For Saul Bass, design meant visual thinking. How does Thies Wulf describe design in one sentence when asked about it? And how does this understanding of design flow into your work?
I believe that visual design work strains one’s own mind patterns and brain regions and, over the years of experience and design activity, strengthens our” brain-mass-muscles”.
Holyprop was presented in its own showroom at POP KUDAMM over the past couple of weeks. Including lots of collectibles from your own personal collection, which were displayed in dozens of Holyprop mounts. Where did these special favorite pieces come from that you presented at POP KUDAMM and what do they mean to you?
To put it very roughly, these actually came from my own collection and are divided into 3 categories. First, artworks by well-known artists such as Jenny Holzer, Tom Sachs, David Shrigley, Sarah Illenberger or Georg Hildebrandt. All artworks are real favorites that I cherish and that I have somehow fallen in love with. It was the first time I pulled the objects out of the archive and found the staging very exciting. The second are Silkscreen Printed Dollar Bills by an exiled Iranian who became an artist at the age of 70+ and makes incredibly beautiful prints. I show the real $ bills with printed subjects from the Andy Warhol Factory set up like a flag and find this kind of presentation very appealing because unseen. And the third are my own sample sculptures, some of which I made for the pop-up spectacle. My intension was to present the different “cases” and by doing so to get into conversation with interested people and to spark interest. In addition, I could test the collection for relevance and popularity.
You were on location in the Holyprop showroom at POP KUDAMM each day and thus experienced a lot. What experiences did you have at POP KUDAMM and what moments will you remember most?
Well, Kudamm 229 is a crazy address: On the one hand, a piece of real West Berlin, as I still remember it from my first visit to Berlin in the late 80s. With the Café Kranzler, the traffic junction and the many tourists who usually come to this part of the city to do some shopping – which I’m happy about, of course, because many of them also came to visit me in the container and I got to know many people of different nationalities. And on the other hand, you can feel the transformation towards a new self-conception. I’ve always thought of POPKUDAMM as a Gallic village – a place that can offer a few more things than just shopping. If it wants to….. I was especially pleased to see so many international visitors after the last 2 years, and to see the public reacting so positively. I would also like to mention the team spirit that brought us all together as containerists – it’s always a great experience when you can work together in a natural flow without any big agreements and get along with each other.
Whoever dropped by POP KUDAMM saw you having in-depth conversations with visitors right in front of your showroom. When you look back on these moments, how much of a hunter and collector are inside us Berliners, and how design-oriented are we?
[laughs] Great question! Of course, there’s no general answer to this, but the people who came to visit the relatively compact container were usually very enthusiastic and immediately thought about what they could put under the hood….. It tended to be more women who showed the greatest interest and were the most creative in lighting up the collection. And also have bought them – however, interestingly enough, exclusively filled variants.
And did you also take something home for yourself from the talks, for your work, your designs?
Yes, absolutely! An older lady from Grunewald – dressed in Chanel – said that would also be an ideal object for sex toys – which made me think of Germany’s first sex toy museum in Hamburg so that I wrote directly to the creator Anna Genger. And now there are various Holyprops filled with different sextoys in the old pharmacy in St.Pauli. I also had another long conversation with two young men about age 15, who didn’t let go and came up with great ideas, visions and questions. That was really quite astonishing! In general, the subject does not leave anyone with an interest in interior design cold and there are always influences that add to the product and further development.
POP KUDAMM is all about the urban space and how we experience them, how we use them? Your work is about our living and working spaces which you design. Where do you get your inspiration from and what does your creative process look like when you design a space.
In general, I intensively and repeatedly observe our world and the behavior of us humans, our society as a whole and its development in as many contexts and facets as possible. Because this always shapes the development of a design process – after all, it’s about making something better or completely redefining or re-inventing it. The pure thinking process that seeks to incorporate all this is always at the beginning for me – sometimes insanely chaotic and sometimes very organized and sorted. Then comes the maximum fun, as designing, balancing colors, materials, furniture as well as evaluating forces in a space is a magnificent work. If it ends up helping people or even companies to use and live in better places, the work is successful and extremely fulfilling.
When you look at an urban place like Kurfürstendamm, how much do you like it from a designer’s point of view? And what does a place like this miss in terms of design?
As already mentioned, I feel that the Kudamm area as a whole is in a strenuous process of transformation. There are still a lot of old western forces, then the Berlin resident phantom desire for historical facade and dignity, and then sometimes it breaks up modernistically – I personally find the whisking and whirring in the city structure quite interesting. And I think that’s reflected most beautifully at the Kudamm. Personally, I would like to see more verve in architectural expressions – more courage, meaning and less facade.
Regional craftsmanship and the reuse of materials are central to your work. What does sustainability mean to you and why is regionality imprtant to you?
It makes sense from a purely logical standpoint. I have to do with local craftsmen / engineers / artists and it usually results in mutual development, inspiration and improvement. And of course also support, which is becoming more and more important in today’s world. The beauty of this collection is actually also the 100% recyclability and we have insisted on only recycled materials for the production as well as the packaging. However, the products in general should give pleasure for a lifetime and are already for this reason sustainably thought and designed.
What would be a project you would like to work on one day and what space would you super like to design?
I have a lot of places in my mind and heart. I would find it interesting, for example, to design places in Berlin’s political landscape or public authorities, which so often come off joyless. Modern market halls and shopping malls would also be an exciting topic. A favorite topic is also the development of a pavilion culture like the one that was common in Berlin before WW2. I firmly believe that it would be rewarding to actively address this again and thus be able to make better use of and to entertain public places. Creating “REAL” places is an ongoing theme and constant motivation.
And last but not least: Where can we meet Thies Wulf next and what are you currently working on?
My main focus at the moment is actually on the HOLYPROP project. Because this is where two aspects of myself come into play: design and art. In addition, the glass holders represent only the first product family and another seven families are in the pipeline and will be developed further on an ongoing basis. In addition, I am intensively looking for artists with whom I can collaborate and whose works I would like to distribute as editions on the holyprop.com platform. I am very excited about the realization of a hotel project in Saxony and the design of a marina with gastronomy in Berlin.
Thies Wulf is a Berlin-based multidisciplinary designer whose work spans creative direction, product design, and conceptualization for brand and retail spaces. His international portfolio includes creative direction for fashion labels such as Stone Island, Eduard Dressler, Dorothee Schumacher; interior design projects for, among others, Turtle Stone Inc. in Osaka, Stone Island and C.P. Company in Milan, St. Tropez, London, New York, Los Angeles, Seoul, Rome, Munich, as well as other architecture projects for brands such as Audemars Piguet, Brax, MAC, Lufthansa and HUUM Equipment. He is also co-founder of the creative agencies Zeichenweg, Maginwulf and Shopfiction and since 2007 freelance artistic director of Design Hotels AG.
More about Thies Wulf and Holyprop at:
Interview: Dennis Wartenberg