Say yes to cardboard design! Kyburz Produktdesign and Mister Karton

June chapter of Pot-pettas is dedicated to cardboard design. This time we wanted to explore a bit the fascinating world of objects made by a material that, only in the latest years, is showing its potential and its creative power. To know more about cardboard furniture and objects we interviewed Rainer and Tobias (Kyburz Produktdesign – Switzerland) and Martín and Mireia (Mister Karton – Spain). Let’s go meet them!

1. Let’s talk about you: few words about when your company was born and what are your skills.

Kyburz: we are Rainer and Tobias and we started to work together in 2010. However the company was officially registered in January 2015. I have a background in economics but I preferred to be professionally involved in a creative company than in politics and/or global companies. For Kyburz I take care of all the organizational part and that everything goes well. Tobias is the creative mind: he develops the ideas turning them into real products and teaches in various Schools and Universities.

Mr. Karton: Mr. Karton was born in 2012. We both, Martin and Mireia, had previous experience in interior design, but also in advertising, film and events. We always had a great interest in ecological design and organic materials so we decided to begin to experiment in this field. In Barcelona we decorated the RVCA showroom using cardboard pieces of furniture and objects and, with our great surprise, that had so much success: we didn’t know that in a few months Mister Karton will be born and become what it is now! However, we focused 100% on Mister Karton just at the beginning of 2014, we decided that would be “The Year of Mister Karton”. And here we are, delighted with all the things that are coming.

2. Let’s go straight to the point: what about your creations and where do you find inspiration?  

Kyburz: we use to follow our intuition. In the last 4 years we let us be inspired by various materials (including waste ones)sometimes appreciating their beauty and sometimes their technical characteristics. Otherwise the inspiration for our products, mostly pieces of furniture, is not waiting behind any corner! Since the very beginning we already released three collections of products: Kartonklunker, No waste and Pallet Raw. Currently we are producing about 11 products: some of them are still prototypes.

Mr. Karton: nature and all its forms is what inspire us most. And also the Nordic design, the needs of everyday life and the ecological and organic materials. We began creating lamps made by cardboard and we really loved the result: cardboard lamps fit very well in the interiors and the particular undulations of the material create a very special visual effect filtering the light. From that start, we then expanded the possibilities of cardboard also to other elements of decoration and interior design.

3. Among your collections we would like to know more about Kartonklunker.

Kyburz: Kartonklunker is a cardboard chandelier. It was Tobias’ graduation project at University. The idea behind it was to create a cost-effective chandelier. Moreover cardboard is an interesting material because is almost 100% recyclable, cheap, easy to shape and very durable when used in indoor places. Regarding this project, we have a funny story to share. Usually people ask us if Kartonklunker is a safe product or if would be possible that is starts burning because of the material is made of. We use to answer: “yes, we only had few customers who had their houses burnt down, so statistically it is very safe. Don’t worry”. Such an answer is only a little joke and it is an excuse to better explain how Kartonklunker works; all joking aside the product is really safe.

4. What materials do you use? And how about the production process? 

Mr. Karton: we work mainly with corrugated kraft paper in brown/brown, white/brown or pure white. To create certain products we combine the cardboard with wood, or other materials, to achieve the desired effect. Wood and cardboard are “brothers materials” that complement each other perfectly and, depending on the object, the combination offers a very satisfactory result. The corrugated paper is usually “virgin”, not recycled, although it depends on the needs of each project.

Our production process starts spending time shaping our imagination and the ideas come from that. Then we create a 3D project, and after that a pattern and a 2D cutting plan to cut the pieces. We try to maintain intact the aesthetics of the cardboard as much as possible. When the pieces are ready then we assemble them manually. The pieces are glued one by one from the first to the last one: this manual process makes each creation unique.

5. Do you produce all by yourself or with the help of other professionals?

Kyburz: we are the founders of the company and we are designing and producing all by ourselves. In some occasions, however, some of the productions phases are made by external professionals. It was the case of Kartonklunker and No-Waste Table.

Mr. Karton: we create most of the collection by ourselves but we love working with other professionals to expand the horizon of possibilities. Cardboard endless multifunctionality allow us to collaborate with illustrators, photographers, interior designers, art directors, graphic designers and all those who want to try a different medium for their creations.

6. The production comprises also non-cardboard products. Can you tell something about the other collections? 

Kyburz: we always wanted to work with waste-wood because it has stories to tell. So we used pallets and their components to create new products. It is the case of No Waste collection, our contribution to the conscious use of resources, materials and manufacturing processes. The Table NW 208, for example, was the first furniture of this series: a special product with polygonal surfaces and idiosyncratic forms that come together in a functional way.

7. Tell us more about your products: what was the idea behind? Pros and cons of working with cardboard?

Mr. Karton: the idea behind working with cardboard is to provide sustainable design without renouncing a neat, refined and elegant aesthetics. The main advantage of working with cardboard is its malleability and the endless possibilities of transformation. You can create almost any decorative ideas! One of the disadvantage could be its weakness in comparison to other materials, however, we reinforce each of the parts to overcome this issue and got very resistant objects.

8. What are, according to your opinion, the current trends in interior design?

Kyburz: it seems that pieces of furniture are becoming fashion objects with a very short lifetime.

Mr. Karton: as for Spain, we currently notice a growing sensitivity to sustainable products, and fair and pro-human-rights production processes. There’s more and more attention to the origin of everything we buy, and there is an exponential social awareness about all these issues that we share 100%.

9. On what are you working right now? Are you planning to expand production, or add models or materials?

Kyburz: we constantly have about 10 ideas per day but it is too early to disclose them! Currently we are working on our new website which will be launched shortly.

Mr. Karton: of course! We are constantly thinking about creating new models and enlarge our collection. Our advantage is that we make custom-made decoration projects for spaces and events, so that each proposal and each client allows us to expand our production range and above all to experiment.

10. Where can we find your creations? Are you planning to take part in design events?

Kyburz: you can find all the products on the online shop on our website. Regarding future events, we are planning to take part in an exhibition in Zürich the next November and we are also thinking of showcasing our works in Kortrijk.

Mr. Karton: we’ve just took part to the Mercado Central de Diseño at the end of May, and we’ll organize Karton workshops at the FabCafé, both in Barcelona. We’ll also attend next edition of Palo Alto Market in the section of Design&Art Gallery. Take part to such initiatives always makes us happy because we love to interact with our clients and receive a feedback on our products. This allows us to learn and constantly reinvent ourselves offering the best we can make.

Photo credits: Kyburz Designprodukt and Mr. Karton

Interviews by Valeria Crescenzi Margherita Visentini. Zürich-Madrid, June 2015

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