Designers Gush: Alissia Melka-TeichroewPosted: July 6, 2011
Last week I had the opportunity to visit Alissia Melka-Teichroew in her New York studio and discuss her current projects including her charming Peasant Collection comprised of lighting & furniture, her modern jewelry collection Jointed Jewels, and her very new Strap Collection featuring baskets, a trivet and a tiered serving dish. Alissia was born and raised in The Netherlands and is a graduate of Design Academy Eindhoven with a Masters of Industrial Design from Rhode Island School of Design. She has worked for IDEO and Puma and now heads her own company byAMT, a New World-Old World mash-up, as it has been described.
J: What was your inspiration for the Peasant collection?
A: It literally started with milk stools, that and the “joke” that American design is always made out of wood and always very “woody”. I think I wanted to have a little twist on the fact that wood is an old material, it’s a staple and it’s also used in very functional objects which is very American; it’s functional, sturdy, it works.
So I started with the one-legged milk stool that sometimes has straps for ease in moving around – that paired with the regular, standard idea of turned wood and lathing, especially with one of the stools in particular which plays with the round and the square, using all of these different technologies in one stool. Milk Stools got picked up by a French company Y’a Pas Le Feu Au Lac. They’re a new company, they literally launched this January, and they make everything all in the Jura in France and all with one company, all locally sourced. The stools are doing really well in the media and have started to sell, mostly in Europe so far.
A: From there I wanted to design a small collection of pieces that were related yet had their own characteristics: Skirt Table, All is Vanity and American Beauty Pendant & Desk Lamp.
A: With the Skirt table I was I was playing with the traditional backs of chairs in a completely different object.
J: I really like that one a lot
A: It’s a love or hate piece I found out.
A: Yeah people either love it or are very quiet…
J: Well I like it a lot.
A: It’s really hard to make which was funny because the drawing was so easy. I did a rocking chair to go with it but we didn’t produce it. At some point I’d like to figure out a way to make it a little more mainstream where it’s something that’s more affordable.
J: What about using 3D printing?
A: Well you can’t 3D print wood. But it is much easier to manufacture with a 5 Axis CNC. So you really need a 5 axis CNC or you need to do it the way it was made with a bunch of jigs. It was a little crazy to make but if you have that machinery then it’s totally doable.
And then I wanted to see a different view on a vanity – different from the traditional idea of this thing that we sit in front of to make ourselves look pretty – but in a simple way, really looking at the way an easel functions.
Another project that I’m doing is the Jointed Jewels, which is a completely new place in jewelry for me because it’s in higher-end galleries.
J: Was this project the first time you starting working with 3D printing?
A: Well the first time I ever did 3D printing was in a CAD class and I had to make a connection and I made the connection with a ball joint. With 3D printing it’s all in one, you don’t have to click it together. You can actually make things that are already together and don’t come apart because it’s impossible. So that’s when I first did a 3D print and I always wanted to do more with that concept of ball joints. We use 3D printing for a lot of sampling and prototyping as well.
J: The Jointed Jewels pieces, particularly the necklaces, were the first pieces of yours that I had seen and they seemed so new and different for jewelry – modern but still very approachable. I was very intrigued by the construction and at the time I hadn’t thought about the fact that must have been printed so I was particularly mesmerized. I love how they embrace technology but are still precious, refined and really lovely.
A: Thank you. I also did a bunch of rings and the tricky things with these is that the stick has to be thick enough so that it doesn’t snap, the ball has to be big enough so it doesn’t come out, and there has to be enough room for the ball to move around in the socket. The bigger pieces were an experiment the first time, but once it worked we knew what distances to use etc. The smaller ones took more experimenting. The color and finish are still something that is being refined in the 3D printing world so there are a lot of experiments on that end.
J: It seems like the kind of materials you can print with are expanding.
A: Yeah but they’re not all as good. Even getting the plastic good enough for me to sell for a fairly high price is hard. I think a lot of the stuff that is being sold is not such nice quality and it is important if you do rapid manufacturing you need to show that it can be nice quality. So they can do glass now but I have heard it’s not great. Yet!
J: And what about the Strap Collection that was created for McMasterpieces? I read that the invitation was to create pieces made entirely of parts and raw materials from their industrial parts catalogue.
A: Yes. The McMaster-Carr catalogue is enormous and it was hard at first to decide which way to go: whether we should start thinking from the materials available or from a type of product we wanted to create. Whatever it was going to be, we wanted it not to look like an object or objects made from McMaster-Carr parts. We decided to work with leather and wanted to create a small collection of home objects. So for the trivet, the leather functions as a way to enlarge the trivet according to the diameter of the pan.
For the 2-tiered serving dish the leather was used in a structural way and keeps the plastic tiers up.
The bag and basket are all constructed from leather, just with wooden handles. For the future I would like to re-work the bag to make it more of a usable object. I am looking into getting the basket and trivet made as well.
A big thank you goes to Alissia for sharing her work and development with me and the designgush readers. I am particularly fortunate to have been able to see all of these pieces in Alissia’s studio, especially after having admired them in pictures. Alissia’s work can be seen in its entirety at her website and many of her jewelry pieces, accessories and objects can be purchase at her web shop.
Photography of Alissia’s Jointed Jewels collection is taken by the talented Lisa Klappe. Check out her work here.