Sabine Marcelis has found the balance between research and industry

8 March 2024

Sabine Marcelis

The Dutch designer has chosen Rotterdam as her base, a production hub that inspires and supports her creative work

Born in Holland, raised in New Zealand, Sabine Marcelis returned to the Netherlands to study design at the famous Academy in Eindhoven and then settled in Rotterdam, as she herself says. She is a versatile and borderless creative, who manages to go with credibility from a research project intended for a niche gallery, to a collection for a company like CC-Tapis, via a collaboration with the luxury cosmetics brand La Prairie and a site-specific installation in Egypt. Without compromising her style, in which compact surfaces, essential and regular lines, toned down colours, roundness and transparencies recur. The method is that of listening: from each experience, Marcelis draws inspiration for the next.

Ra Forever Is Now III
Ra Forever Is Now Exhibition in Egypt

How do you find the balance between research and working with large companies?

From the beginning I was told that I couldn’t do both and that I had to find a direction. But this wasn’t the way I generated new ideas; I really need to jump from one extreme to the other. On the one hand there is the collection I made for Ikea and on the other the site-specific installation for a space in front of the pyramids in Egypt. They are two opposite situations and I really need them because I collect many ideas: by searching for suitable solutions for a very specific context I also collect ideas for projects with a more industrial profile.

CC Tapis Stroke 4
CC Tapis Stroke 2,0

So, is research like nourishment for industrial design?

I try to maintain a balance between these two contexts because, when you work with a brand, you come to projects that you wouldn’t have done alone, independently. Sometimes it really comes as a surprise and you often get there by doing research on the brand, acquiring new information which in turn gives you new ideas and this is an aspect that fascinates me a lot.

CC-tapis CC-tapis Stroke 1.0 Rug

What convinced you to settle in Holland?

When I started studying in Holland my plan was to return to New Zealand after graduation but then I immediately started working hard and before I knew it ten years had passed and in the meantime a son arrived with a French partner and so now, I’m pretty stuck in Rotterdam.

CC Tapis Stroke 2
CC Tapis Stroke 2.0

What relationship is there between your work and the city you live in?

I feel really indebted to Rotterdam for the way I have been able to continue my work. When I moved there, there were many empty buildings and I had the opportunity to settle on a very small budget. I didn’t have the pressure to sell my work suddenly and therefore I felt free to explore, try new things. I worked in a bar to pay the rent and it was a very free way to dedicate myself to design. And it’s the city that really has space, I wouldn’t have found a place for my studio in Amsterdam for example. And it’s a port city so there are a lot of factories in the area where I can go to make my projects.

CC Tapis Stroke 3
CC Tapis Stroke Collection

How would you describe your home?

It’s a playground! It is very open and we can move furniture from one place to another to keep it looking new. It can be very intimate but also very open and is a metaphor for how we live our lives flexibly.

On the cover: Sabine Marcelis with the installation The Cobalt House for La Prairie at Edit Napoli 2023

Image of the site-specific work Ra Forever is now III courtesy Art d’Egypte/Culturvator


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