Studio Sabine Marcelis: Manipulating Form And Light

Rotterdam-based designer Sabine Marcelis has been operating Studio Sabine Marcelis since graduating in 2011, working within the fields of product, installation and spatial design with a strong focus on materiality. Her work is characterised by pure forms which highlight material properties, creating a visually magical synthetis of form and function. Some of her latest clients include Fendi, Céline, Isabel Marant, Burberry and Salle Privée. We talked to her about her career and her particular approach to materials.

Hi Sabine! Nice to e-virtually meet you. Let's start with a typical first question: where did you grow up and how did you get to become an Industrial designer?

Collateral Magazine

Collateral Magazine

I studied industrial design in New Zealand for two years, but after wanting a bit more autonomy in the design approach, i transferred to The Netherlands to complete the final 2 years of my degree at Design Academy Eindhoven. I always knew I didn't want to get a 9-5 job somewhere, but to have the freedom to set my own hours (and rules). So as soon as I graduated, I got a studio space in Rotterdam and started doing self-initiated projects.

In the beginning I actually worked a lot for fashion designers and artists. My strength really lies in my knowledge an interest in production processes, so where they had these fantastic crazy ideas, I knew how to realise them into feasible things. Figuring out a way of producing them and coordinating the production process etc. Then I slowly started doing less freelance work and more my own. And I started working with galleries and collaborating with fashion brands on larger projects. In recent years I am moving more towards installations and architectural settings.

I find it very interesting to be able to influence the experience of a spacial setting. I did a number of collaborations with architecture firm OMA in recent years and these collaborations have allowed me to explore a whole other level of design. My aim is to keep growing and pushing boundaries and to not be stuck doing only product design -which i what I originally studied.

Would you define yourself as an Industrial designer?

I am a designer who works between different fields and scales within design but always with the same starting point; To highlight material properties in a new and interesting way through experimentation, often in close collaboration with industry specialist.

I always hope to create a moment of wonder and work which makes you want to take a second glance. Mostly static pieces which however are not experienced in a static way, because of the way the light (both natural and artifial) interacts with the work, it is experienced differently from all angels.


Your works span from aesthetical to functional design: how important is the function of your works for you?

As a trained industrial designer the function of an object or space will always be of extreme importance. I always force myself to answer the ‘why’ question.

Having said that, I also believe that aesthetic value and the perception of an object and reaction you can create from its audience is a function in itself. For instance the Dawn lights are not lighting objects which are designed to be able to read with perfectly. Their function is to create a moment of wonder and to enhance the experience of being in a space with the object. With my more artistic free work this is what I strive for when talking about function. When I work together with architects on a space, function takes on a different meaning. The space has to function for what it is designed for. My addition to this space should not conflict with its intended use. The material use should compliment and work together with the other elements to again enhance the experience of being in that space. To change perception and add specialty.


You seem to be mainly working with light and see-through materials such as glass. Do you think you will experiment with different materials in the near future?

For me, and in my work the play of light, colour, transparency and reflection are tools to create static object which you don't experience as static. There is no rocket science hidden inside the projects, but the clever use of playing with light makes the objects and spaces come alive. When you move around them, they are forever changing. Light is everything. light creates shadows and reflection. light manipulates colour. It is the ultimate catalyst. And there are so many ways in which light can be a part of a project. Introducing artificial light or working strictly with the natural light in a space all play very different and unique roles to produce interesting effects. For now, these tools are my main point of interest, until I find something else to capture my fascination!


Your work includes geometric forms such as squares and circles, a recurring choice in your designs. What does it mean to you?

Materiality and a visual effects created with material or light takes centre stage in my designs. The shape or form it takes on is directly derived to showcase this effect in the most optimal way. This is why I like to use very simple shapes, so as not to distract away from the core concept with ornamental form language. Having said that, I am also totally a sucker for circles, so they seem to keep creeping back in. Its funny because I think some people read into that a bit too much. There is no direct celestial or spiritual meaning behind the designs, which I think many people seem to think there is.

Finally, could you talk us through any future project or something you'd like to work onto?

I would love to work on a theatre piece or music concert/video. This is something I have not yet had the opportunity to be involved in yet and I would find it a very inte-resting challenge!


You can find Sabine's work on her website: