In his first collaboration with Moooi, London-based designer Umut Yamac has created an interactive light called Perch that plays on his interest in design that moves us, and a fascination with birds.
A graduate of The Bartlett School of Architecture in London, Umut Yamac studied under Professor Bob Shiel and Nick Callicott whose hands-on approach to teaching was built on the philosophy of designing through making. Students worked with real materials at one-to-one scale in the university workshop, making functional pieces and installation works reminiscent of the Bauhaus School approach where process was everything. "At the time it was the most arts-based architecture course in the UK," remarks Umut. "There was a lot of emphasis on following your own creativity." For Umut making his own pieces also became the start of a fascination with interactivity and how design can be transformed through movement.
After graduating, Umut explored different jobs and types of work that saw him join the studio of artists Gilbert & George, helping them realise their big publications and exhibitions, as well as architecture studios, big and small. "I was trying to see what architecture could be and find my way in the design world," explains Umut. "It helped me focus on my interest which I decided was slightly smaller scale."
Umut opened his own studio in 2011 and has since produced a series of interactive pieces and spaces including 'Cockney Sparrow', a cheeky acoustic and kinetic installation in Bloomsbury Square Gardens, and 'Time Flies', a glass-domed clock featuring mallard, swallow and sparrow in flight and described by Umut as offering a poetic reflection on time. Conversations between objects and people is a central theme in the work.
In 2014 when showing his latest work 'Perch' at Design Junction during the London Design Festival, Umut met Casper Vissers of Moooi who liked the piece and began to discuss a collaboration. "Casper was really interested in how it could be developed into a product," Umut reflects. "At that point it was more of an artisan piece so we talked about how we could achieve the same quality but translate it into a collection/" The next two years prototyping and testing the design with Moooi, allowed Umut to work with a team of product developers and expand Perch into a range which now includes Perch Light Branch and a series of options for the floor, the wall and the table. "The large tree which has about 40 birds was something I wouldn't have been able to make myself," remarks Umut. "Through the collaboration I was able to extend the project and that was a really interesting way to work."
Technically there were some hurdles to leap: how to keep Perch very lightweight to allow movement, but also robust enough to meet the product standards of the Moooi brand. Made of steel, brass and folded polypropylene paper which gives the three-dimensional forms strength, each bird lightly balancing on its metal perch, free to swing when gently touched. "One of the interesting challenges was how you transfer current through a moving joint." Umut explains. "So that it keeps illuminated whilst it is moving. If you blow on it, tap it or walk past it, it will start to rock back and forth while it is still lit. It is like the ideal pet."
The theme of the bird has been a constant in Umut's work, bringing surprise and joy and a poetic playfulness. "I am being constantly asked when Perch will be available for sale," Umut laughs. "The reaction has been so positive. In Milan last year I spent a lot of time in the Moooi space and what was quite nice was I could see people really connect with it in some way. There is something about birds, they can mean so many things to people so it was enjoyable to see the reaction".