Luxembourg women shine in design
More than half of the workforce in design is made up of women and the percentage of female leaders in that industry is on the rise, industry statistics from the AIGA association show. It is good news that bucks conventional workplace ratios. The Grand Duchy also plays home to a growing number of strong female designers - the Luxembourg Times spoke to three of them.
Born and bred in Luxembourg, Julie Conrad set up her Design Studio in 2013. It is a swish outfit, with a focus on furniture, accessories and objects such as her pliable, fan-shaped room divider. In December, she will open a shop in the city.
Conrad explains how no two of her projects are the same. A variety of completed jobs and works in progress jostle for space in her workplace. Her version of the roude Léiw of Luxembourg’s coat of arms roars down at you from a poster on the wall. And the prototype of a pliable book-shaped bench – in use at the Mersch public library - provides an Alice-in-Wonderland-esque feel.
Recently, she has worked on projects to promote Luxembourg, such as an exhibition for the Luxembourg Pavillion for the Dubai Expo 2020, where she was part of a team of eight artists. Showing a prototype of a textured earthenware droplet - 3D-printed by Äerd Lab, using Luxembourg clay - she explains how it is one of one hundred of these drops that will hang in a mirrored “infinity” space, where sound and light will react to visitors. If you find that hard to picture, don’t worry: the exhibition will come to the Grand Duchy next year.
The exhibition offers a platform to explore the identity of a nation – one that in Luxembourg’s case is particularly fluid and diverse. Reworking Luxembourg’s motto “Mir wëlle bleiwe wat mir sinn” (we want to stay how we are) into “Mir wëlle bleiwe wat mir ginn” (we want to stay what we become), product designer Conrad found it equally liberating to adopt a more artistic way in her work.
Nature by design
It’s not often you meet a human printing machine. No high-tech wizardry for Mea Bateman though - just simple tools, ink and a solid sketch to carve from. Her block printing method is so simple that at first glance, it doesn’t look too hard to do. But that is deceptive.
Bateman gained Luxembourgish nationality after she arrived from the UK and never looked back. Trained as a graphic designer, she struggled at first to find a career. And so, she returned to her love of sketching, using clear lines of pen and ink. Combined with her love of nature, it yielded a series of the flora and fauna of Luxembourg. Mea Bateman Prints was born. ‘‘You won’t find images from fantasy in my work,’’ she says, ‘’always images from nature. I take inspiration from the local animals and plants I see, and that others can see.’’
Initially, Bateman started out hand drawing her designs onto cards. But after selling well when she had a market stand at the Art in the Grund Exhibitions, she scaled up by switching to lino print, enabling her to produce multiple images from one design. Still, no two prints are the same. The linoleum is hand-carved and each print is made by hand, making them, in Bateman’s words, "the same, but different".
Bateman has now teamed up with Rowena Paterson to form the duo that is Little Fox Linen. Her nostalgic, nature-inspired designs compliment Paterson’s hand sewn linens. Their best-selling design might be the fox, but Bateman’s personal favourite is the Goldcrest – Luxembourg’s national bird. It is a symbol proving that small is beautiful. And that goes for Bateman’s business as well.
Irina Moons is a graphic designer of quite a different ilk. Her work reflects how much technology has changed the way we communicate. It is no longer enough to design the packaging for a brand. Branding and marketing has moved online, making for a very different user experience. A cute poster for an event by L’Institut Européen de Chant Coral is an example. Scan the QR code - that’s shorthand for Quick Response, in case you were wondering - and the poster will start performing, just for you.
Moons took part in an exhibition in Taiwan in 2019 as one of only three of the 30 worldwide participants from Europe. It made her realise that designers nowadays not only need to be abreast of current technology, but also current affairs and societal relations. Being part of the exchange was the driving force for Moons to set up a coworking space, Am Gronn, in the heart of Luxembourg.
Moons’ style is deceptively simple, using just four colours. Her abstract, bold images make the familiar strange and the strange familiar. A commemorative stamp she designed picturing Luxembourg’s City History Museum is an example. At the moment, she is busy with plenty of new projects for the European Capital of Culture taking place in Esch-sur-Alzette next year. Sadly, she is not at liberty to provide details of her work for the event.