Gabriele Chiave spent his formative years moving from Dakar (four years), Caracas (five years), Buenos Aires (two years), and Rome (three years), giving him a multicultural perspective before even finishing high school. After receiving his French baccalaureate diploma, he headed to Milan where he spent nine years, during which time he studied Industrial Design at IED. In 2007 he landed in Amsterdam where he landed the covetable gig of being Creative Director at Marcel Wanders Studio overseeing all projects in product and interior design, and art direction for a number of premium design brands. The incredibly busy art aficionado and jazz lover took some time to give us a look into the magical world of the Marcel Wanders Studio, in this month’s Where I Work.
What is your typical work style?
Methodical, but with room for a little madness. My schedule is full from the moment I wake up with team meetings, brainstorms and a lot of travel. I always reserve some personal headspace time for reflection and creativity though – every day. I try to keep looking at things sideways.
What’s your studio/work environment like?
Well, fittingly it’s a former arts and crafts school so there’s a real sense of creation with plenty of space to experiment in. It’s like walking into a Marcel Wanders set. It’s a hive of activity, which we’ve filled with our designs, products, prototypes, works in progress: literally, everywhere you look there’s wit, beauty, and inspiration to draw from. We really do live and breathe the philosophy of Marcel.
How is your office organized/arranged?
The overall layout of the company space is like a human brain, there are 2 main rooms – the left and the right sides of the brain, separating HR and finance from creative, comms, and operations. We all sit and work together in the main rooms, there are no walls or barriers.
We have a photo studio where we build art direction scenarios for our various products. There’s a workshop space for prototyping and small-scale constructions. Some pieces of the Personal Editions collection are produced in this space too.
There’s a common space for eating and parties; birthdays, goodbyes, baby showers, etc. And a bell rings at 12.30 everyday for lunch. It’s like being back at school except the food’s actually tasty (though it’s not Italia,n of course). Everyone is on a kitchen duty roster, so we all pitch in at some point, which is good for us.
Our main meeting rooms are on the top floor looking out on picturesque views of old Amsterdam. It feels elevated like you’re on top of a skyscraper somehow: the views are quite spectacular in an oldy worldy humble Dutch way. We also have a well-stocked material library up there.
How long have you been in this space?
Since around 2007 when the team was much smaller. Marcel renovated the building and transformed it into a creative hub. Creative agencies such as international advertising agency, 72 and Sunny, rent out other spaces and floors.
Is there an office pet?
Yes. Or rather an office muse. Our associate creative director, Christie has a dog called, Iggy. Iggy’s maniacal running from desk to desk, frantic panting, and timeless beauty has inspired us to feature her on many projects to date. Her little face has been carved onto several pieces of furniture as well as on a very large decorative wall in our Design Hotel, The Andaz on the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam. She continues to inspire!
What is your creative process and/or creative workflow like? Does it change every project or do you keep it the same?
For each project a bespoke multidisciplinary team is brought together. Product designers, interior designers, 3D renderers, graphic or pattern designers: whatever is necessary for that particular task or concept. These teams are totally interchangeable. You can be a project leader for one project and a designer for another, the hierarchy is based on the project requirements and who would fit best for it.
What kind of design objects might you have scattered about the space?
The workspace is filled with a nice mix of protoypes for different projects and previous work for clients; chairs for Magis or Very Wood, lamps for Moooi and Cappellini, vases for Baccarat and prototypes for Alessi or awards for Randstadt along with many others. We surround ourselves with these things because we love them too.
Is there a favorite project you’ve worked on?
Alessi projects are always close to my heart. Being Italian, I have a deep connection to this company. We’ve worked on several projects with Alessi; The Pots and Pans collection, The Dressed collection and most recently, a special lazer cut/carved, Dressed in Wood collection with an (Italian inspired) Pinocchio theme. We launched Dressed in Wood at Maison et Objet in Paris.
Tell us about a current project you’re working on. What was the inspiration behind it?
I’m currently working on, ‘Masters of the Golden Age’, a lavishly ornate, giant-sized book paying homage to the Rijksmuseum’s, ‘Gallery of Honor’ 17th century painting collection. The book focuses on the cultural relevance and reach of these world renowned paintings to contemporary audiences. We are interviewing creatives about their classical inspirations and modern insights from the collection. The list of participants so far is incredible; Alain de Botton, Anton Corbijn, Angela Missoni, Erwin Olaf, David Allen, Jimmy Nelson, Jan de Bont to name just a few. As well as limited hand crafted and calligraphed versions there will also be a version for a general audience available at the museum soon.
What’s on your desk right now?
The first thing of note, my celebrity doppelganger portrait. A requisite for all members of staff at Marcel Wanders. Then there’s my 1-minute sculpture, a handful of art catalogues, a beloved Venetian mask, an obligatory ‘keep calm’ image, a radiation hazard warning (unsure why), and a picture of the greats; Prince, Al Pacino, and a passport picture of me of course (slightly younger than now).
Take a video tour of this space with Marcel Wanders here: