Lighting design

The science-inspired design language of Catrinel S.tudio

Romanian artist and designer Catrinel Sabaciag, experiments with materials, science, and philosophy to create unique pieces that combine product design, installations, and sculpture

Catrinel Sabaciag, founder of her namesake studio Catrinel S.tudio, is a Romanian product designer and artist creating interactive objects through a multidisciplinary approach to design. Her work is driven by her deep interest in movement and perception and with it, she addresses themes of time, entropy, light, and nature.

With an inquisitive mind and a fascination for exploration, Catrinel’s multifaceted approach is often rooted in science and philosophy, while the making, which is often quite experimental, is oriented towards material exploration.

Her body of work bridges product design, installations, and sculpture, showcasing her versatile and experimental nature. Through her interactive objects, Catrinel designs experience that challenge our perceptions and visualize the inconspicuous forces that surround us while presenting it in an engaging way.

In order to create her mesmerizing pieces, Catrinel uses a mix of advanced manufacturing techniques while incorporating classical hands-on methods, such as casting, resulting in objects that embody a scaffolding of technical components that mimic an organic and natural inspired phenomenon.

Her incredible talent and depth are displayed in every single one of her pieces, and her ability to bring reality to a new light while transforming the ordinary to the extraordinary is what makes Catrinel truly unique. 

DesignWanted had the opportunity to interview Catrinel and find out more about her continuous exploration, creative process and the next steps for Catrinel S.tudio. 

Catrinel Sabaciag
Catrinel Sabaciag in front of her Morfoza Lamp

Who is Catrinel Sabaciag? How did the journey for Catrinel S.tudio begin?

Catrinel Sabaciag:

“I am a product designer & visual artist, whose work straddles between product design, installation, and sculpture. My approach is multidisciplinary, often rooted in science and philosophy, whilst the making, quite experimental, is oriented towards material exploration.

I have a profound interest in nature, which I see as the ultimate designer, but also in the mechanics of perception, exploring notions of movement, time, entropy, and light. Moreover, I feel that using light, enables me to create new dimensions, in which the viewer can immerse himself.

More than objects, I mostly design experiences, that challenge perception and showcase the invisible forces that surround us. This, I think, brings reality in a new light, one where the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

Often I feel like there is a mesmerizing world to discover underneath the surface and this is something that has been with me always. Since childhood, I was curious and fascinated with materials and making processes.

As a little girl, I vividly remember my grandfather’s chemistry lab, where we would make colorful and unexpected experiments. In my teenage years, I was lucky enough to have the support of my parents, who encouraged my artistic pursuit.

Thus, I studied Graphics at the Fine Arts HighSchool in Cluj, Romania, and later pivoted towards 3D objects, studying Product Design at the Univesity of Edinburgh and the University of Lund in Sweden.

However, the path that I am now on has only started to take shape around 2016, with the THISorder Collection,  a series of objects and time-based installations around the theme of entropy. After graduating in 2017 I moved back to Transylvania and founded Catrinel S.tudio.”

[ If you want to see more about Catrinel S.tudio’s works, Don’t miss Catrinel S.tudio plays an ode through design to nature, entropy, and light ]

Mira Light by Catrinel S.tudio

Why Catrinel S.tudio, why focusing on product design, installation, and sculpture?

Catrinel Sabaciag:

“The studio’s name is simply my name and the S. from “S.tudio” is an abbreviation for Sabaciag, my surname. I wanted to keep it simple and genuine staying away from fancy or overly-designed names.

I feel like working between product design and art offers me the freedom to create objects which translate my vision best. The interactive nature of the objects opens up a space for immersive experience, enabling the viewer to be a co-producer of the piece.

The way art is usually displayed, seen from a distance, creates a charged space between the viewer and the work. I feel that with functional art objects, which are usually interactive/dynamic pieces, that charged space is transformed into a playful and inclusive one.”

Urma Clock by Catrinel S.tudio

I am driven by a need to translate the way I see the world into tangible objects and experiences, fueled by great curiosity and hunger for experiment and exploration. I often draw parallels between natural laws, science, and philosophy, which enable me to observe and understand the phenomena around me from a wide range of viewpoints.

Through my work, I try to challenge the viewers, to expand their perception. Part of my vision is to make the invisible visible. I often feel, that we are taking the world and it’s wonderful working mechanisms for granted, whether we are talking about natural forces (gravity, entropy), natural phenomena (light, rhythm) or human-made constructs (time). 

My works embody these concepts: Urma Clock and Mira Lamp – entropy; Timescapes: From Clocks to Outerspace – gravity and frequency; Morfoza Lamp – light, and sets them in new perspectives.

For instance, Morfoza Lamp, which innovatively plays with the spectrum of white light, is able to make humble materials, like plastic foil appear to be precious crystals.”

Urma Clock
The collections of Urma Clock and Mira Lamp are the embodiment of entropy

The project ‘Mira’ is inspired by the continuous fight against entropy and impermanence. What other fields and inputs provide you inspiration?

Catrinel Sabaciag:

“The starting point of my work often finds its inspiration in science and has a narrative that is informed by philosophical concepts and themes. For example, in THISorder Collection both scientific and philosophical ideas have shaped the work’s core concept.

For this project, the scientific source of inspiration was the double-slit experiment, a demonstration that small particles of light and matter can behave both as particles and waves, thus proving that the very act of observing a particle has a dramatic effect on its behavior. This scientific experiment led me to investigate and rethink the enigmatic interdependence between objects and people.

Timescapes: from clocks to Outerspace is also inspired by scientific research. Created during Our Nature: Art & Science Residence, in Trieste, (IT) and inspired by the visits in the city’s 6 Research Centers it is composed of three types of pendulums: human, geological, and astral, their movement pattern describing the temporal landscape of the space they reference.

Natural landscapes are often a great source of inspiration as well. Having spent a big part of my childhood in nature has had an impact on my work and life. Through my works, I try to emulate the dynamics found in nature, such as the movement of clouds, water and of course light.

James Turrell, Olafur Eliasson,  Alicja Kwade, Pieke Bergmans, and Studio Drift, are some of the figures that inspire me the most.”

Catrinel S.tudio - Morfoza
Morfoza Lamp by Catrinel S.tudio

The starting point of your work is often rooted in science and philosophy. If you did not do what you actually do, what else would you do?

Catrinel Sabaciag:

“I have always had the feeling, that if I would not have been a designer I would have become a criminal investigator since I find the criminal mind and the process of putting the pieces of the puzzle together during an investigation fascinating.

Other fields I find compelling are biology and chemistry. I would like to be more skilled in these fields because it would enable me to design my own materials, and develop smart or biomaterials.”

Instead, timescapes are inspired by scientific research

Catrinel S.tudio projects are often quite experimental, focused on material exploration. Which are the main values, core concepts, or style inclinations that, above all, will always represent the studio?

Catrinel Sabaciag:

“My main values are experimentation, multidisciplinarity, openness to questioning norms and perception, but also a powerful drive to expose the world, hiding under the surface.

Another important value is that of staying true to the piece’s concepts. During the development and making processes from idea to the final piece, I try to stay true to the concept and not take any shortcuts, that would hinder it.

Often, the making is a mediating process between my desire to shape the materials in a certain way and the materials & processes limitations. A fine balance between discipline and surrender is key.”

Catrinel S.tudio - Timescapes
It shows three time types of pendulums( human, geological, and astral) and their movement pattern that describe the temporal landscape of the space they reference

The themes tackled throughout your work are mostly time perception, entropy, light, and nature. If you had the chance to collaborate with one designer, who would it be?

Catrinel Sabaciag:

“For sure Olafur Eliasson. If would have the change and honor to collaborate with him I would love to work on a large scale installation incorporating natural elements like mist or water.”

Urma Clock
Catrinel is always trying to emulate the dynamics found in nature, such as the movement of clouds, water and light

With a recent nomination at ‘Passajen Interior Design Week Koln Awards’ with the Morfoza lamp project, what is the next step for Catrinel S.tudio?

Catrinel Sabaciag:

“Most importantly, I am working to increase production for the Morfoza Lamp, while also thinking about new projects. One of the next luminaires will embody the dichotomy between natural and man-made on one hand and infinite/entropy on the other. Another exciting project will be a new alternative clock depicting the passage of time using magnetism.

Regarding shows, obviously due to the peculiar times we are living in, most of this year’s shows, including the Milano Design Week 2020 have been canceled.

However, I have been selected to take part in the Romanian showcase of the Both Ways, Art & Science Exhibition, during ESOF2020 (EuroScience Open Forum) in Trieste, IT. The project brings together 5 European countries and reflects on how art and science contribute – in interweaving ways – to the production of human knowledge. 

The exhibition will have both a physical space in Trieste and Cluj-Napoca, but also a virtual program (a digital gallery) where Timescapes: From Clocks to Outerspace and Morfoza: light&color out of this world will be waiting for virtual visitors to bring them to life.”

[ Curious to discover more innovative ideas on lighting design and installations? Don’t miss the interview to Bruno Munro ]


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