“Every time we’re doing something for the first time”: Meet experimental design studio Odd Matter

The Amsterdam studio’s founders Els Woldhek and Georgi Manassiev talk us through their varied and hands-on approach to product design.

14 May 2020

In 2008, Els Woldhek and Georgi Manassiev set out on their first day at the Royal College of Art in London. Here, the two bonded over their shared interests as MA students on the Design Products course, which was run by Ron Arad in his final years. So, it was in some ways inevitable that they would join forces and eventually strike out on their own. Now the founders of Odd Matter Studio based in Amsterdam, the duo work on research, materiality, processes and concepts, all the while producing objects and furniture pieces that are uniquely creative.

“I think I grew up in a reasonably creative house,” Els tells It’s Nice That. “I was always encouraged to draw and make things, which were my favourite things to do next to dancing.” Georgi’s experience growing up was somewhat different – his parents weren’t artists, designers or architects. “I suppose I naturally became interested in making and breaking things at some point,” he explains. “That interest and curiosity then became stronger than anything else around, and by the end of high school it was pretty clear what I was interested in.”

GalleryOdd Matter Studio

Odd Matter Studio operates across interiors, concepts, product design and commissions. “At the end of the day, what we make is furniture that’s focused on how it’s being made and what it could become,” says Els. Experimentation is key, as the duo especially seeks out new and exciting challenges presented by the limitations of materials. “So every time we start from scratch and every time we’re doing something for the first time.”

As such, every project that they launch is based on a different material or process, and sometimes they even invent their own. “It can be all handmade in the studio, because we’re the only people who can do it,” says Georgi. “Sometimes it’s a computer drawing and the production is entirely outsourced.” In short, there are various methods for doing things at Odd Matter Studio, and Els and Georgi relish the freedom that this brings.

A recent project saw the studio create a couple of pieces for an exhibition at Schloss Hollenegg in Austria, an annual event curated and organised by Alice Stori, titled Walden. “It aims to bring the focus of our relationship with nature into our daily life, at home,” explains Els. “So the brief was about how we live with nature and how we can let it into our habitat.”

The duo felt they should respond with a more “hands-on” and direct approach, and therefore decided to steer clear of a making anything too symbolic. “We ended up focusing on mud as a resource,” Georgi says, explaining how it was an interesting choice due to the negative connotations often associated with the material, particularly in urban infrastructure. “It’s a dirty thing – but it’s also quite a versatile material, found in traditional Northern African architecture (among many others) as well as the cosmetic industry. For us, mud was a valid resource.”

A ubiquitous material that can be utilised in numerous ways, mud is easy to shape into any form, and it’s also cheap and accessible. So it was a perfect choice for this experimental duo, who ended up completing two mud-made plant pots – with the addition of legs – now presented online for the exhibition.

In other news, Odd Matter Studio has recently finished up a few pieces for a new Carhartt WIP store in London, designed by Counterfeit studio. These include a couple of display tables, plus a large piece for the shop window. “That was literally the last thing we did, and to be honest, given the current situation, we really have no idea how long it will take to launch the projects that were in the pipeline,” says Georgi. “We’re trying to keep ourselves busy with the things we were struggling to find time for before. Now, we have the time to play around in the studio and to do some experiments we were looking forward to for quite some time. No idea what’s next.”

GalleryOdd Matter Studio

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla is currently covering Jenny as It’s Nice That’s online editor. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.


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