Isabel Ahm is a Danish furniture designer with an enthusiasm for everyday life and a focus on human needs. Being a child of the Danish design tradition, she strives to create functional and poetic furniture and products with a twist.
She is educated as a furniture architect from the Royal Danish Academy of Art, School of Architecture, Department of Design in 2007. She lives in Copenhagen with her husband, daughter and spotted dog.
Have you always known what you wanted to do in life?
I have always been interested in form and even when I was a little girl, I had projects going on. As nobody in my family were into design, I didn’t think of it as an option as a profession until I got the opportunity to have the subject in school.
When I was 17, I entered the IB school Atlantic College in Wales. I took Art & Design on High Level. From there on, there was no doubt in my mind about what I wanted to do.
What was it about design that made your mind up?
I like the combination of construction, form, user insight, materials, heritage, art and science fiction.
What drives you as a person?
I think I have three drivers. Firstly, I am driven by building the world I’d like to live in. Whether that be furniture, society or food production. I have always been into science fiction and fantasy, and if you think about it, design and architecture is in a way science fiction, as we build for tomorrow. In the past, designers and architects discussed ideas about utopia and sincerely aimed to build for what they perceived was “the good life”. I try to think like that when I design.
Secondly, I am also driven by making things happen. I enjoy when ideas come to life. Weather that be tables, morning parties, wikieditathons, chairs, discussion fora or teaching my dog new tricks.
Thirdly, I like to have fun and enjoy what I’m doing. And I just love designing furniture.
Why did you start making furniture?
I was hooked from the first time I made a furniture piece at the school of architecture, I simply love it. To me, furniture is the ultimate category. It is a sculpture that must function. Furniture have major impact on space, mood and they are the objects that are the most in contact with our bodies. It is this relation between human and object that tickles me.
You say that you make your designs based upon studies on the human behaviour – why is that important to you?
I believe that furniture should be tailored for people. Tailored functionally and emotionally, and in order to do that, I need to know what moves people and how we act.
What does design and ethics mean to you?
Design and Ethics to me is about one of the paradoxes of design in our time. The world doesn’t need more things and WE don’t really need more things. So how can we just keep producing like the planet is doing fine? I think that we designers should be at the forefront at being conscious about the dynamics of consumerism and try to steer it in a direction where we buy less, choose well and make it last, as Vivienne Westwood puts it.”
Can you tell us about your first creations?
The first furniture I made was a cell phone furniture. It was at the time of Nokia and Sony Ericsson, and I had observed that people were very disturbing when they walked around and talked on their phones. The user studies took place at the school and was just basically looking at my teachers and co-students speaking on the phone. I didn’t know about design anthropology at that time, so methodologically it was all pretty rock and roll.
One of my other early projects, was concentration furniture for primary school. I did a thorough research process including participatory and non participatory observation, design games, etc.
Where do you go to find inspiration?
My inspiration generally derives from two different fields, behaviour and nature. I spend hours in the woods studying transitions and constructions that I transfer to my pieces. I strive to balance the masculine and the feminine, the gritty and the organic, the exotic and the Scandinavian. The objective is harmony.
If you should give an advice to a person who haven’t found the passion/path of life what should it be?
First of all, I believe in a revival of the renaissance person. That you can have many passions and it is in the combination of the fields and knowledge, that new things and ideas emerge.
The idea that there is ONE passion in life, is in my perspective a narrow minded approach. So my advice would be to go with where the fun is. Look at what you are doing, when you are really having a good time (and no, I don’t mean drinking rose and smoking cigarettes) but look at what activities makes you feel good and makes you feel you are doing something meaningful.