Life With: Christian & Jade

Life With: Christian & Jade

Life With: Christian & Jade

Jade Chan and Christian Hammer Juhl met on the first day at the Design Academy Eindhoven and somehow always found themselves going back to each other to share and discuss ideas. Today they run the design studio, Christian+Jade, together in Copenhagen, where they explore design as an artistic form of expression with a special focus on craft and material. They have created an expression that is founded on what they each are shaped by.

Text by Ditlev Fejerskov, Photos by Katrine Rohrberg

Christian wears ANOTHER Hoodie 1.0, Faded Black (see more) & ANOTHER Pants 2.0, Night Sky Navy (see more), Jade wears ANOTHER Jeans 1.0, Raw Indigo (see more) & ANOTHER Shirt 3.0, Brown/Black Stripe (see more).

What did influence you as a child? 

Jade: My mum shaped the way I understand materials, craft, and ideas around aesthetic. She loved working with her hands and was constantly diving into a new material and technique and making sure that we all tried it out too. One of the clearer early memories I have was from when I was little sitting under a big jackfruit tree in the garden playing with paint. I think it was her showing me the sense of joy and freedom that comes with creating. 

Christian: When I was young, I spent quite some time in different Sports Arenas surrounded by the smell of sweat and that loud sound that rubber shoes makes when they hit the wooden floors. I played for the local handball team in the small town of where I grew up. We were a group of boys who was quite serious about our team and our training. We had our matches recorded so we could review them, the local newspaper would write a review about our matches. I think being part of a team like this that requires a lot of focus and discipline has definitely shaped the way I work today.

Where did you get the interest in design and art from?

Jade: I went to art school for quite a number of my formative years and thought that I was going to be an artist, but the search for purpose in the act of creating transformed into a clear desire for functionality, craftsmanship and a careful beauty, which for me was what the field of design seemed to promise.

Christian: My granddad was a furniture designer and made lots of furniture and was maybe a kind of Gyro Gearloose character. He had a telephone connected in every room in the house – even on the toilet my grandmom could call him when the lunch was ready. In the living room he had created a cabinet with green velvet upholstered drawers with small custom-made carousels systems for his pips and my grandmother’s napkin rings and silverware. My granddad was very much someone I looked up to and I think coming in their house and his extreme attention to details, materials and care was what sparked an interest in design and the build environment for me.

My grandad once gave me some of his cameras and that sparked an interest in photography and from there I started getting interested in analog photography, building pinhole cameras, combining cameras together and I created my own darkroom in my parents’ attic. I really enjoyed figuring out all these systems and I still think that is what I enjoy today.

How did you meet each other?

Jade: We met each other at the Design Academy Eindhoven, where we studied together.

Why did you start a design studio together?

Jade: We actually met on the very first day of school, and somehow always found ourselves going back to each other, to share and discuss ideas. I guess we just saw in each other ways of thinking that we admired, or felt that we lacked, and it somehow felt like we spoke the same language (even when we didn’t). For me every single concept or design, when placed in the presence of Christian just suddenly grew hands and feet and began running towards its potential. So, I would say we just never stopped working together.

Christian: After graduating, I was invited to present my graduation work at the London Design Fair. I really could not see myself standing there and presenting myself alone as a studio, so I asked Jade if she wanted to come along. So, we kind of had to pretend we were a studio. That’s how we ended up calling ourselves Christian+Jade, and ever since we have presented our works as a unity.

What inspired you in the beginning?

Jade: Out of the many things that inspires me, I’ve been thinking a lot about an assignment I was given to investigate the willow tree for almost half a year. I’ve completely forgot about it, until recently, having launched a project about wood, that I realized how it has shaped the way I design today. I grew an obsession about learning everything about the willow tree from its role historically and culturally, but also of the many ways in which we utilize different parts of its body as material. I found a willow in my neighborhood that I kept returning to. I think this act of contextualizing resources and materiality as part of a larger living world, has really served as an inspiration and constant reminder for me to always contextualize my practice and works in the larger picture.

Christian wears ANOTHER Hoodie 1.0, Faded Black (see more) & ANOTHER Pants 2.0, Night Sky Navy (see more), Jade wears ANOTHER Jeans 1.0, Raw Indigo (see more) & ANOTHER Shirt 3.0, Brown/Black Stripe (see more).

How do you explore design as an artistic form of expression?

Christian: We do so by focusing on the narrative and storytelling, rather than the result of a design. We never start by thinking that we would like to make a chair or a lamp, but that we would like to understand a material better or learn a new way of working. For example, discovering techniques of working with aluminum, or learning more about wood. So, in that way, function is more a tool allowing direct proximity to the materials and intention behind a work. We think our way of working is also evident from how all our works come about, they are all results from briefs or residencies as such, where we have worked out of a context or need.

What is your philosophy when it comes to making your products?

Jade: For us it is always about honesty and intention. That someone receiving our pieces can understand what material it is made of and how it is made. We really believe that this has the ability to transform the way you understand the things around you, and the relationship and value you may give to it. And for us it’s also kind of important that it is something we want to have in our home and surroundings.

How do you challenge the relationship we have to objects and spaces we inhabit?

Christian: By challenging what we think we know about them and allowing us to better understand what they are made of or where they come from. We think that if people can start seeing the things in our physical spaces as elements that has passed through many hands to get to where they are today, it can change the way we choose to consume.

What have been some of the most memorable moments with design and art in your life’s?

Jade: For us, it would be discovering the format of residencies as a way of working and creating. One of the most recent places we’ve been to, was a castle in Styria, Austria called Schloss Hollenegg, where we lived and worked for a month. It felt like living in a museum where you could investigate the drawers of every cabinet and sit on all the furniture. Being in a new place, learning about its history or its natural resources really transforms the way you create. We ended up creating a wine fountain decanter type thing, from a bunch of unused construction sand which we melted into beautiful green glass. We have also potentially kickstarted a glass production of the unused sand, that will go into producing wine bottles for wine made on the castle.

Christian: Another residency that have really shaped us would be the one we did with Dinesen in the old Jels Sawmill, and now production facility in the South of Jutland. We lived there for around a month, and the resulting exhibition ‘The Weight of Wood’ which we launched with them is a clear testament to the wonders of working in such a format.

Who are your inspiration heroes today?

Christian: Destroyer Builders, I find Linde Freya’s (the founder) attention to material and surface really interesting. I am fascinating by the scale of things Anne Holtrop does. His production technique, for example the pillars for the Margiela store in Paris, I think is really fascinating.

Jade: It is hard for me to put names on it, but my inspiration heroes are people who can tell a good story, in beautiful and surprising ways. These heroes often come in the form of authors of books or screenplays and sometimes chefs. I have a soft spot for lesser-known stories, or those that shifts perspectives, not necessarily in a loud demanding way, but more in how I catch myself second guessing myself or referencing a certain perspective months and years after. And I think that’s really what I try to achieve in my work. I’ve been revisiting Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer that explores how impossible it is to take a single perspective in the wars we fight, and the show Ramy by Ramy Youssef that looks at how people grapple with the disparities between changing values, faith and community.

What else inspires you?

Jade: The seasons. I come from Singapore, a country that is an average of 31 degrees Celsius, every single damn day of the year. But with the seasons I get to be inspired constantly. From the changing of nature, its colors, the produce, how I have to dress myself, the activities I do, and more. I really feel that change and transformation is a process that always gives space for new ideas and inspiration.

Christian: I am really inspired by buildings that are “Gesamtkunstwerk” where an entire building and its interior from the door handle to its architecture is designed by the same person. When I travel, I always look for places like this. Some of my favorite ones that I’ve visited are the Saarinen House in Detroit and the Saint-Cyr House in Brussels.

Which places inspire you? 

Jade: For some reason, we have started noticing a common thread in the places that inspires us. We are really drawn to religious buildings, or spaces that incorporates a strong philosophy in its architecture or function. We think there is so much beauty in being able to see a belief or a ritual in the organization and textures of a space and in the details of the pieces within it.

Christian: One of the first spaces that really spoke collectively to the both of us was the St. Benedictusberg Abbey at Vaals, Netherlands, by Dom Hans Van der Laan, which we visited together in 2014. For something closer to our home in Copenhagen, we really love the entirely brick built church of Grundtvigs Kirke, and the historical buildings of Frilandsmuseet.