Touch Base by DAE @ Salone Milan 2016

Touch Base by DAE @ Salone Milan 2016

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Touch Base, a Design Academy Eindhoven exhibition curated by Ilse Crawford and the Academy’s creative director Thomas Widdershoven, explores the power of tactility in human life.

To touch is to feel physically and sense emotionally.

We live in a world where our sense of touch is too often numbed, negated, vilified and sexualized

ilse crawford and thomas widdershoven at dae milan

Ensconced in Milan’s Ventura Lambrate design district, Touch Base explores the counter-movement that many of the DAE students are shaping in response to the empowering, but overwhelming presence of technology and digitalism.

Touch Base featured a wide range of projects going from interior design to conceptual and artistic ideas focused on reconnecting visitors with tactility

Touching is not just a sensation, but a human need and the students’ projects aim at recapturing through it the real essence of life, reacting in this way to the overwhelming presence of technology and digitalism in our everyday lives.

Digital is the keyword to decode our society: social networks, apps, texts, games and emails dictate indeed not just our lives, but the way we relate to each other.

Stripped of a strong link to our physicality, our existence becomes little more than a series of preferences.

Yet all the focus on what’s visually striking but immaterial has definitely numbed our senses.

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We will always have an instinctive desire to gather tactile information through interaction with the physical world because to touch is to feel physically and to sense emotionally.  A touchscreen, after all, can’t touch you back ” ….Thomas Widdershoven


Behavioural psychologists argue that touch is more than just an optional sensation, it is a basic human need, and perhaps even the essence of life. Without touch we are left vulnerable – physically unsure and emotionally insecure.” …. Ilse Crawford


Tactility is a political, a human and a social statement ” …..Thomas Widdershoven


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Last year’s Design Academy Eindhoven exhibition was named Eat Shit, where projects on show included a mummified poo, intestine-shaped bread and a Portaloo festooned with flowers.

Widdershoven advised that the DAE has undergone a “paradigm shift” with students now more interested in responding to real-world problems than making beautiful objects for collectors.

dae entrance

The main exhibition takes place inside a barn-like space cordoned off by dark curtains.

To enter, visitors must walk down a bark path lined with boxes of textured materials.

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Inside, a collection of projects by Design Academy Eindhoven graduates include a set of tableware made from milk, an interactive stone and a vagina mirror.

Some of these ideas may just remain at the experimental level or be developed only for the interior design sector, but it is great to see that younger generations of designers are reconnecting in a clever way to the world surrounding us all and to the needs of society through the physical and emotional sensations that touching may provide us.

Quite a few of the ideas developed for textiles could indeed be applied to the garment or accessories industry.

Whilst other students came up with surprisingly innovative projects to revitalise local communities or recover materials and skills being lost or wasted

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Outside Exhibits


Petting Zoo 2.0

DAE student Years 2 & 3

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On arrival at the exhibition, visitors are met with a small petting zoo designed by second and third-year students and tutors.

The “Petting Zoo 2.0” an area in which visitors can touch cockerels, goats and sheep, and aims to investigate the boundary-shifts between nature and technology and the effects of touch on people and animals.

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Hand Washing

Seung Bin Yang and Carlo Lorenzetti

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Visitors were greeted by Seung Bin Yang and Carlo Lorenzetti’s thoughtful projects around the rituals of hand-washing.

The designers offered visitors an opportunity to wash their hands in a basin using Yang’s flaked soap while Lorenzetti poured water from his Disruptive Fundamentals ceramics.

Visitors were encouraged to dry their hands by gripping a warming stone inside a ceramic warmer.

hand washing


Hand washing #TouchBaseDAE #designacademyeindhoven #venturalambrate #salonedelmobile

A video posted by Seungbin Yang (@yangshung) on


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thomas widdershoven with Seung Bin Yang and Carlo Lorenzetti



Mobile Wool Processing unit

Guilhem de Cazenove

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Guilhem de Cazenove launched a mobile wool processing unit re-valuing a by-product of sheep farming, fleece.

The project turns shepherds into producers of washed wool, while people degreasing, washing, drying, carding and felting help preserve these age-old traditional skills.


Gathering people around actions such as degreasing, washing, drying, carding and felting helps also to preserve age-old traditional skills” ….  Guilhem de Cazenove



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Brick & Sand Oven

Pieter Städler

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The Brick and Sand oven is a compact fire oven designed for outdoor cooking.

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Inside Student Exhibits 

While some of the projects on show in the Design Academy Eindhoven explore tactility in relation to body image, other students focused on linking a general demise in tactile interactions with an increase in our carbon footprints, whilst others addressed issues surrounding body image.



Hair clothes

Alix-Marie Bizet

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Moving from the meanings and symbolism attributed to hair throughout the centuries and linking with ideas of modern beauty, Alix-Marie Bizet did an in-depth research and created designs using this material.

No hairs are discarded, though, in Bizet’s pieces, but all are needed and wanted: in this way the designer hints at the diversity of individuals, tackling democracy and equality in a society that is sadly becoming more and more racist.

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Debora Dax



Debora Dax aimed to highlight the subject by creating underwear adorned with artificial pubic hair and a skirt padded to look like love handles

Underwear adorned with artificial pubic hair and a skirt padded to look like love handles feature in this collection of garments by design student Debora Dax.

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“ This clothing series is inspired by human body textures, which we like to hide and avoid,” said Dax.“This project shows that those structures are interesting and can be seen as body decorations.”

Differences in physique, skin quality and body hair are all celebrated in her nude-coloured garments.

“ It took some time to find the right materials that give the feeling of skin as colour, fabric surface and structures, and also ensure that those fabrics work together as a collection



Urtica Textiles

Nina Gautier

dae salone milan Nina Gautier

Nina Gautier worked with tactile-unpleasant stingy nettle and used every part of the plant in woven blankets that are surprisingly strong, soft and silky.

The designer mixed nettle fibres into her fabrics and made dyes in multiple shades of green letting the hidden merits of stingy nettle shine through

dae salone milan Nina Gautier



Ecological stools and carpets

Tamara Oriola

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A project by Latvian designer Tamara Orjola  explores the many uses of waste pine needles leftover from felled trees.

Once processed, crushed, soaked, steamed, and pressed the needles can indeed be transformed into textiles, composites and paper and the designer proved her theories by creating a series of stools and carpets made with pine needles.

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“Nowadays, it’s only valuable for the timber,” she continued. “It’s also the most common tree in Europe, there are around 600 million pine trees felled each year. Wood is used, branches are used, but the needles aren’t used at all.”

Each year 600 million pine trees are cut down in the EU and 20 to 30% of their mass is needles.

Thanks to standard manufacturing techniques like crushing, soaking, binding and pressing it’s possible to turn pine trees needles into a textiles, composites, paper, and even extracting essential oil and dye

“I started investigating forgotten plants, and what plants used to be, and I found that the pine tree was really interesting as it used to be used for remedies, medicine, and to build homes and furniture,”

Orjola began experimenting with the needles, and developed a fibre extraction method using steam.

She then transformed the extracted fibres into paper, textiles and a composite material for the furniture industry.

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Stove Stone Pots

Maddalena Selvini

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Maddalena Selvini presents S-POT, a collection of stackable vessels and objects.

The designs are made of a particular Italian soapstone that is used for its heat-holding properties.

The designer also re-purposed sand left over from smoothing the soapstone to make compatible stoneware plates, cups and a teapot.

maddalena selvini stove stone dae salone milan 2016

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Tactile Capsules

Sanne Muiser

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Sanne Muiser developed a strongly tactile material, a “second skin” reminiscent of fur but made by needle-punching natural materials such as wool and sisal into a man-made latex base, creating in this way juxtapositions between the natural and synthetic worlds.

Inspired by the extremely high perceptiveness of our skin, the designs are reminiscent of fur

dae salone milan Sanne Muiser



Mirrored Car

Frederik Deschuytter

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It won’t be long before cars become self-driving. As the discussion about the future focuses on technology, Frederik Deschuytter explores the design impact of it all.

What will we do while the car carries us along ? They might become mobile cocoons for sleeping, or transform into temporary offices on the go.

At Touch Base the designer presents a neutral shape made from mirrored material, showcasing the surroundings instead of the vehicle.

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Human Hair Rugs

Charlotte Jonckheer

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Charlotte Jonckheer‘s project uses horsehair rather than human hair

Her special carpet made with black horsehair, wool, cotton and chenille in various lengths and patterns is designed to offer a tactile surface for people to pace up and down while they wait, make phone calls, think or worry.

As people move on the rug, the surface prickles their senses and they also get more relaxed, easing the tension and feeling better.

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A story about a Pine tree

Sarmite Polakova

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Sarmīte Polakova was instead inspired by trees rather than animals: the designer explored the world of pine trees and found out that in Latvia they are extremely common.

Under their inner bark, pine trees hide a soft material with a leather-like quality and a lifespan of up to two years.

The designer made a small collection of objects using the material from a single tree; the products can be returned to the soil and enrich it for the next growth after their lifespan is exhausted.



Vulsa Versa

Micele Degen

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Designed by Micele Degen, the Vulsa Versa mirror aims to eradicate taboos surrounding intimate female areas.

Questioning why women still feel ashamed of their genitals, Degan created a curved hand-held mirror that would encourage them to better-engage with their own body.

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Erez Nevi Pana

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There are also further intriguing materials developed by Erez Nevi Pana who came up with a solid black combination of soil, fungi and other natural materials such as sugar.

The materials are measured by volume/weight and mixed together creating a chemical reaction that allows the earth to rise like dough to double its original size; they are then shaped and baked, a process that makes them hard.

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Tactility and Emotions.

Boris Kovacs

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Boris’s project is about how certain surfaces trigger trigger an intangible reaction based on an association, or memory

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Milk and sugar ceramic glazing

Ekaterina Semenova

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Russian designer Ekaterina Semenova also explored the reinterpretation of waste products, and her work displays the effects of different dairy products when used as a glaze on ceramics.

Ekaterina Semenova focused on reducing milk waste: inspired by an old Russian practice, she collected leftovers from neighbourhood households and applied them to ceramics, discovering that milk can provide a durable waterproof glaze, even when it’s spoiled.

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By dipping earthenware into different dairy products – including yoghurt – various shades of silky brown appear after baking.

There is a lot of empty talk about recycling in fashion or producing “green” collections, but most of the groups, brands and designers involved in such projects quite often prove they never did any kind of genuine researches to develop really innovative and experimental materials.

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Imprint of Skin materials

Floor van Doremalen

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Imprint of Skin materials are designed to give “super-sensory impulses” to the body




Adrianus Kundert van Nieuwkoop

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Adrianus Kundert van Nieuwkoop created for example a series of rugs that become more beautiful as the yarn or the weave become damaged, and the rug begins to reveal a different colour, texture, or pattern.

This could be a great solution for clothes that may help us all giving more value to a garment and cherishing it for a longer time.

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Laundry House

Via Cletto Arrighi 10



About Studio Ilse  – Ilse Crawford

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Ilse Crawford is a designer, academic and creative director with a simple mission to put human needs and desires at the centre of all that she does.

As founder of Studioilse, together with her multi-disciplinary, London-based team, she brings her philosophy to life.

This means creating environments where humans feel comfortable; public spaces that make people feel at home and homes that are habitable and make sense for the people who live in them.

It means designing furniture and products that support and enhance human behaviour and actions in everyday life.

It means restoring the human balance in brands and businesses that have lost their way.

As founder of the department of Man and Well being at the Design Academy Eindhoven, her mission extends to nurturing a new generation of students to always question why and how their work improves the reality of life.



About Design Academy Eindhoven


Design Academy Eindhoven specialises in design. It offers a four-year Bachelor’s course and a two-year Master’s course.

It has an impressive, international team of tutors at its disposal and the quality of the designers they educate is very high.

The DNA of Design Academy Eindhoven can be described as conceptual, authentic, creative, flexible, free, passionate and curious.

The first thing that typifies Design Academy Eindhoven is the autonomous set-up of the teaching.

The design departments, compass departments in the bachelor’s course, and the programmes within the master’s course are all headed by people who are leading figures in their professions.

Owing to their extensive networks, their enthusiasm, and their ability to help students in directing the content of their designs, the actual current profession is a day to day inspiration to our students.

Secondly, the academy is firmly rooted in the professional field.

Each tutor works as a professional designer for most of his/her time or is otherwise active in the current professional practice.

This allows the Academy to respond rapidly and adequately to signals from the professional field and society.

The third theme is the Academy’s sensitive antenna for social phenomena as a motor for innovative design.

The Academy has set up its educational model based on social phenomena with man as the focal point.

Design is in the service of man and society and social developments are the most important mainsprings for innovative design.

Designers who graduate from the Academy are particularly gifted conceptualists.

Wherever they end up, whatever they do, their main weapon is conceptual thinking.

It allows them to ask critical questions about existing things and to introduce new approaches and to design from a bird’s eye view.

Both with regard to design and research they know what they want and what they can do.

They know their strengths and have charted their skills and their limitations.

Autonomy and originality are their trade mark.

In the Academy’s own view, its excellence lies in the fact that it trains designers to be aware of the social implications of their designs.

This is why the Academy chooses a more horizontal and integral approach to design over the more traditional vertical structure within each design discipline.

The link between this integrative approach on the one hand and autonomy as a principle on the other is characteristic of the Academy as an organisation and as an educational institution.

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