Embracing individuality in Design – here’s the story of Ferréol Babin
A designer who gained fame early in his career, made a bold decision at a certain point—to start afresh, crafting handmade, exquisite objects
Ferréol Babin has always been one of my design heroes. I began following his journey in its early stages, and his work significantly influenced both my approach to design and how I communicate my own creations. I witnessed him create prototypes, capture them in stunning visuals, and gain recognition from major international design blogs.
His work is a harmonious blend of functionality, minimalism, and interactivity. We share a similar age, which has consistently pushed me to strive for excellence, keeping pace with his accomplishments.
He experienced a significant surge in exposure when he designed the renowned Lunaire lamp for Fontana Arte, which not only garnered appreciation from major brands but also marked the inception of a thriving career.
For those who, like me, followed his journey closely, there came a turning point in his career—a surprising twist. Ferréol announced his decision to produce his own pieces. Although this move caught me somewhat off guard, I could fathom his rationale behind it.
Given his background as a skilled prototype maker, such a choice seemed almost natural.
What you might not know is that within the furniture and lighting design realm, there’s an unspoken rule regarding design pitches. Designers share their concepts with companies, and it’s the company’s prerogative whether to proceed with the idea.
This is a process that designers often undertake for free (or at least the designers I know). However, if the project doesn’t progress to production, designers don’t see any financial return. The challenge isn’t just the unpaid pitch; it’s the lengthy timeline of about two years or more from concept to market launch.
Many pitfalls can derail a project, leaving it unrealized. Ferréol had the audacity to chart a different course—one that promised more immediate satisfaction. In a recent conversation I had with him, he revealed his lifelong affinity for craftsmanship, an innate inclination to create things by hand.
During his studies, he spent time in Japan at Nagoya University of Arts, where he encountered well-equipped workshops filled with machinery for prototype creation. Here, he acquired the skills to understand and manipulate wood—a connection that remained with him.
When you physically handle materials, your respect for them deepens.
As designers, we invest countless hours on computers, utilizing software to shape beautiful forms, often overlooking the materials’ origins. Witnessing a raw material transform into a refined product through hands-on craftsmanship fosters a heightened sensitivity. This characteristic is typical of artisans; designers envision it but seldom truly grasp it until they’ve worked with materials firsthand.
In this context, Ferréol Babin began crafting wooden objects himself. His journey reads like a heroic narrative. He commenced with small endeavors, learning new techniques each day, honing his skills. As his proficiency grew, so did his opportunities, leading to larger-scale projects and eventually expanding his workshop.
The progression has been nothing short of remarkable. He initiated his journey with handmade decorative spoons and now collaborates with international galleries like Friedman Benda on more substantial and captivating creations, including benches and sideboards.
Once again, Ferréol’s evolution surprised me, underscoring the reality that design doesn’t follow a linear path. In the ’90s, the prevailing attitude favored quantity, with designers aiming to complete as many uncommissioned projects as possible.
Today, we live in different times. We have the opportunity to assess our surroundings and discover what aligns best with our lives, enabling us to express ourselves authentically. Ferréol has blazed a new trail amidst the intricate landscape of contemporary design, where the pursuit of grandeur sometimes overshadows our innate drive and desire for success.
Ferréol Babin’s distinctive approach has birthed something entirely new, unparalleled, and inspirational, breathing life into beautiful objects crafted with reverence for both material and process—an ethos that every designer should embrace.