“By combining TONK with lost-wax casting, I’m able to produce a unique piece every single time.” Nicolas Erauw’s deft juggling of functional carpentry and rule-bending artistry

Thoroughly focussing on unique and limited edition, 21st century designs, art and design fair COLLECTIBLE returns to the Vanderborght building for its second edition. Drawned in by the undoubtedly rich articulation of design and art, its founders Clélie Debehault and Liv Vaisberg have specially broadened their selection, which now consists of over a hundred pieces of work. A highly expert selection committee, a showcase for young design graduates, and an impressive international line-up of artists and architects make for a more than impressive platform and salon.

We turn our eye to COLLECTIBLE’s Young Designers showcase, which includes three young Belgian designers. First up is the Ghent-based, KASK graduate Nicolas Erauw (1992), who will be taking part in the unprecedented section and presenting a brand-new piece created with his self-made machine TONK!.

At its core, what is your work about? What is its starting point and statement?

Focussing on the material and procedural, I think my work has a lot of industrial elements to it. I also like to keep things simple though, and leave room for the unexpected during production. Another theme that has reoccurred is this urge to make disposable objects last forever.

I would say that my work stems from my curiousity and everyday inspirations. I like knowing how things are made and what they’re made from. From the moment something is stuck in my mind, I start exploring all of the possibilities to make something out of it.

Can you talk to us about your approach in general? What characterises your work?

I have always felt the need to give an object a function—I think this comes from my background in carpentry. This doesn’t mean that the function always remains, but rather that it’s more of a guiding principle that forms the beginning of a project. After I become familiar with the materials and processes at hand, I’m then able to challenge myself to experiment with processes or shapes in new ways.

What series and / or project are you currently working on?

My main focus right now is the wax on/wax off series—it’s a collection of wax mould casts that I make using my self-made machine, TONK. Based on the old technique of candle-dipping, TONK explores shapes and forms using a new medium. By combining the machine with lost-wax casting, I’m able to produce a unique piece every single time.

In the early phases of creating, I try not to complicate things since the casted objects tend to have a very particular form and look. I start with a basic shape like a chair or a cabinet, and then I sketch things out until I come across a form that I like. I then start analysing how I’m going to dip all the different parts. I work in parts because, during the first few months of testing out TONK, I concluded that vertical string set-ups work the best. Once everything is dipped and formed, I bring all the parts to a bronze foundry in Oostakker. They prepare everything and cast all the parts in aluminium. Once ready, I polish the surface of the casted parts so that the assembling can take place.

What are the challenges you face as an artist working in Belgium today?

I think a lot of artists like me want to make a living out of their passion for art or design, but the road to success as an artist isn’t always simple. But that’s a universal challenge.

I always say that I want to grow old maintaining the same eagerness that I have now for making things. If I can achieve that, then I’ve led a pretty successful life.

Talk to us about the people around you; your local scene. To what extent does it inspire and influence you?

I’m always interested in other people’s work, mostly because I’m fascinated by how things are made. These questions lead me investigate all kinds of things, which can then spark a new personal project. And I think that’s one of the goals of any designer—to inspire others. There’s no bigger compliment.

What does success look like to you?

It’s clichéd, but for a good reason—having the freedom to do what I love. I always say that I want to grow old maintaining the same eagerness that I have now for making things. If I can achieve that, then I’ve led a pretty successful life.

To you, what role should contemporary art occupy in the community?

Contemporary art is an alternative, and maybe even more acceptable and exciting way, to invite the community to think about certain things. Like old, artisanal techniques that might otherwise be lost or forgotten due to the effects of modernisation.

On a more personal note, how does your everyday life inform your work?

My day-to-day life is at the basis of my inspiration and work.

Marc Wendelski (c)

And what do your parents, your family, think of what you do?

My parents have always been supportive of what I do. It’s not always easy for a parent to see their child choose a non-traditional career that might not provide a steady income, but you just have to show your commitment.

Design fair COLLECTIBLE will be taking place from 14th to 17th March at the Vandeborght building.