Pieke Bermans – irregular mass production and viruses

Posted: February 9, 2009 in creativity
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Pieke Bergmans is a young Dutch industrial designer who seems to be best known for her “virus design”: infectious objects.  The forms she creates are organic, taking their lead from natural shapes as well as the occasional freedom of being able to flow into their final ‘gestalt’. Bergmans uses a range of materials for her design, from metal, ceramics and wood to glass.

I find a couple of her design concepts quite appealing. One is that of irregular mass production or Unlimited Editions, where unique objects are industrially mass produced – a seeming contradiction in terms. The other is that of viruses: objects infecting and affecting their environment.


Crystal Virus [2005-2008]

A series of virus-formed crystal vases are fluently crawls over tables and chairs. They leave black burned stains in their confrontation with the furniture, but still they can be regarded as friendly beings.

This series is made by the hand of master glassblowers at Royal Leerdam Crystal under Bergmans’ supervision. Big hot crystal bubbles are pressed onto wooden furniture, and while the crystal burns into the wood, some of the woods texture is integrated into the vase. Vase and furniture are then displayed together as an installation.


The Crystal Virus concept evolved between 2005-2008, starting at the beginning with the use of discarded or relatively low-value objects as companion pieces for the glass vases. Later on (in 2007 at the Salone del Mobile), the creation process moved upmarket when famous furniture pieces by Charles & Ray Eames, Maarten van Severen, Sori Yanagi, Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, Jean Prouvé and Jasper Morrison proved to be much more interesting subjects (Vitra Viruses). Through form, colour, value and reputation, they claimed a much more  prominent role in the matter.

I guess in all cases though, Crystal Viruses are about what Bergmans calls ‘a meeting’: between design and art as well as the modern designer and a traditional industry. It’s of course also a confrontational, almost brutally invasional meeting between the Crystal and the furniture, and it’s about the past meeting the future: in form of the rebirth of the seemingly complete and final ‘old’, which is transformed in the meeting act into an emerging ‘new’. Thus this meeting becomest a sojourn in the endless journey death and renewal.

The meeting between crystal and furniture is called by Bergmans ‘an Infection’, and it is a spectacular sight. The bubbles of hot and fluent crystal are pressed against the furniture. In bursts of fire and smoke they melt together (see video clip below). The black burned stain in the furniture is captured inside the crystal like a fingerprint, and the objects belong together from then on. In this context and given the kind of violence taking place during this provocative drama, the act of rebirth takes on an almost cosmic, primordial character.

Rebirth or renewal though aren’t the only metaphors coming to mind. In a more mundane and functional way, one could also say that instead of a union having taken place, the piece of furniture simply has become a pedestal for the crystal object. Or, in another way, one that seems more appropriate to Bergmans’ intentions, the crystal object can be described as sitting on the furniture like a parasite, a virus.

Droog Design (2008 ) presents ‘Massive Infection’, a large table that is completely overrun by Crystal Virus vases

Big Mama [2008]


With her soothing soft features, the Mama Virus lures in all weary beings that lack rest and comfort. However, once embraced by the Mama Virus, it takes some willpower to escape from its relaxing lobes.

Utopia Infected [2006-2007]


Reflection = infection. Astonishing how a creature can hide itself so well, and then suddenly expose itself so extravagantly. Beware: A high risk of contamination is involved when they are around. The mirrors shatter their surroundings into distorted fragments.

Sticky Virus [2006-2008]


This elegant virus clings to anything it touches: Objects, buildings, people, everything can be infected. The Sticky Virus has a great impact and spreading power. Especially at parties and other special occasions, people seem to be very vulnerable. Individuals are known to proudly display their infections, causing jealousy amongst uninfected bystanders. This allows the virus to rapidly spread through all willing subjects

Melted Collection [2008]


A collection of melted blue furniture by Pieke Bergmans and Peter van der Jagt, which is as extraordinary at first sight as it is after close inspection. From afar, the forms look strong, fluid and natural. Even though their bright blue skin is deeply contrasting, the objects are by form connected to whichever surface they rest on. This makes the alienating Melted Collection adapt and become part of their environment. From up close, we notice that the edges of these objects are deformed and melted. The slight gradient of colour that follows the natural curves of the material indicates that these objects were in fact baked to achieve their final forms.

Unlimited Edition [2007-2008]


Unlimited Edition or irregular mass production is a unique production of unique vases. Pieke Bergmans & Madieke Fleuren, working together for the first time, developed a mass production process that would churn out individual objects. It resulted in a series of vases that is titled ‘Unlimited Edition’.

“We designed various templates that we place into an extrusion machine. Thus, the machine extrudes endless tubes of clay. Because of the speed and flexibility of the clay, the tubes force themselves in maximum and almost impossible conditions and shapes. We cut the tubes of the extrusion-machine and place them onto a drying table. Because we have researched the quality and max-deformation of this clay, we have managed to develop a new product that is always unique but can be mass-produced: an Unlimited Edition.”

Light Blubs [2008]


A series of unique crystal lamps by Pieke Bergmans, with Royal Leerdam Crystal and Solid Lighting.

You may wonder: What is a light blub?? The answer is simple: it is a light bulb that has gone way out of line. Infected by the dreaded Design Virus, these Blubs have taken on all kinds of forms and sizes you wouldn’t expect from such well behaving and reliable little products. Nevertheless, they seem to be enjoying their new free existences. They could be found shining across Milan during the Salone Del Mobile 2008.

The lamps are all unique handcrafted crystal pieces, equipped with leds by Solid Lighting Design.

For more on Bergmans’ design go to her website.
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