x Polina Miliou
12 May 2021
Pillow Talk is the latest concept from COLLECTIBLE In-Depth. This new series of articles instigates design encounters in a playful setting. The idea is simple: we pair designers from the Curated Section and each duo then freely chooses three questions to ask to each other. They can tackle any subject, within the realm of design - or not! Today’s duo is Adèle Vivet and Polina Miliou.
Polina Miliou: There is a thread of historicity throughout your work. How did you end up juxtaposing various ancient cultures?
Adèle Vivet: Yes indeed, I’m passionate about history, and the different styles of those who went through the eras. My grandparents are art historians and they taught me that you can find plenty of details and information in history to better know our contemporary time. Actually, this is a kind of a filter that I often use. From my daily life (to understand a politic or an event) to my creative process. I would say this project is an outcome of this “way of being”. It’s a tribute to my education and how I mixed everything to make my own world. Eclectic style is a very relevant movement: dangerous because it gathers so many cultures and periods without giving credit, yet totally free to mention any kind of element and to make odd combinations. I wanted to work with this naïvety: collect my personal obsessions and stories that I grew up with, and mix them with elements that are some figurative symbols in our Western art history.
PM: You have experimented with a variety of mediums. How did hits experience influence your recent works?
AV: I think this experience was really my first with ceramics. Such a discovery! I’d love to keep going with my clay practice: it’s a very broad technique, with so many possibilities, colours, shapes, etc. I’m actually working on a new series of objects made of this medium.
Furthermore, this experience taught me to make it bigger! I’ve always been a little bit shy with being and making in a workshop. So these pieces helped me to prove the opposite and I would love to keep going in that direction. The other medium meaningful to me is my drawing practice. In contrast with the ceramic, I always drew for my projects and also to illustrate. For sure, this is something I plan to keep and evolve over the coming years. :) For the last question you've asked about the mediums, maybe I could come back a little bit on it? While I've never really worked with ceramics and clay before, I would say I have always been interested in the ornamental, its history, and which ways are possible to use to create some stories with... I think it also comes from my illustrations, where I love to create a scene or a story, even for myself :)
“Eclectic style is a very relevant movement: dangerous because it gathers so many cultures and periods without giving credit, yet totally free to mention any kind of element and to make odd combinations.”
PM: At first, the subject matter and medium in your work appear more traditional. But in the second reading, there is a layer of internet awareness and humour, which makes a very interesting contrast. Is this intentional?
AV: Yes, it is. I think without this layer of humour, this work would be extremely first degree. It wouldn’t be possible to quote so many different movements that aren’t my own culture: the result could be inappropriate or too naïve. By using some contemporary and pop culture references, I try to highlight our internet culture: every kind of knowledge is accessible there, but also a little bit shallow… I love to quote subjects that fascinate me, and I’m equally interested in the design of a cleaner bottle as I am gothic art! First of all, I’m having a lot of fun while mixing them! Don’t you think a Nasa Shuttle could be the new greek temple? Besides, a very technical engine is like a very precise baroque low relief… Mixing these items is my way to come up with new stories. :)
Adèle Vivet: I really love how you're using paper pulp and I think it's very smart as a lo-tech and cheap material. Where does this choice come from?
Polina Miliou: Papier mâché felt like an accessible and exciting material to work with when I first started thinking about altering some awkward furniture. I started having fun with the messy and intimate process of slapping the pulp on the furniture and subsequently found a new purpose for the material. Papier mâché is often overlooked as a design medium, and using it in furniture seemed to me like a paradox which I found exciting. Besides, as a childish material, it reflects the cuteness and playfulness I often express through my work.
AV: I'd like to come back to your studies, and especially this weird moment between graduation and after. How did you start your artist life? Was it easy for you? Would you have some advice for this important period?
PM: Architecture gave me a well-rounded set of skills and knowledge, but when I started working in studios, it sometimes made me feel creatively limited. The pandemic forced me to focus on my personal work full-time and when that happened everything escalated! The mistake I used to make before was that I was impatient to make something remarkable. I couldn't trust the slow process of building my personal language one step at a time. This is a common trap. The only way to find what expresses you is to just make lots of stuff, with no plan. You’ll definitely start with creating something borderline horrible. Hence, you can only get better. I'm still working on that myself.
“Architecture gave me a well-rounded set of skills and knowledge, but when I started working in studios, it sometimes made me feel creatively limited.”
AV: How are you defining the pieces you’ll design? A desire for a specific object, function or furniture, or an order from a client? This is something I often question in my practice. I’d be very curious to know how you’re exploring this aspect.
PM: My creative process is not very consistent! My previous collection came from an exploration of different object functions, in combination with the desire of creating sculptures that I see as characters. In many cases, the form was a twisted and “alive” version of a traditional furniture form. For my recent work, I took my orange canoe and collected trash from beaches in Cyclades. I made sculptures by composing the found objects, quite spontaneously. That was new to me, as I come from an architecture background, where I was used to thinking thoroughly before I make anything. In all cases, what is driving my ideas are references of primitivism, Cycladic architecture, cuteness, alien creatures, even movie characters.
About Adèle Vivet (France)
Adèle Vivet is a designer-artist who takes her inspiration from memory. She makes connections between intuitions from childhood memories or past experiences, to historical and social references. Through drawing, design, and craftsmanship, Adèle details and gives shape to personal and collective worlds.
About Polina Miliou (GR/US)
Based between Athens and Los Angeles, designer and artist Polina Miliou creates playful objects out of paper pulp that serve both as furniture and artworks. Her technique involves treating each piece as an individual character and nourishing it through a process of patting, slapping, and caressing it into shape. The results are expressive and functional art pieces, each one with a unique personality.