studio KAE: product design with an artistic and environment conscious mind

Furniture / 6 Sep 2021

studio KAE is a design practice focusing on the research of materials and processes. The co-founders, Zhekai Zhang and Keren Wang, are RCA alumni in Design Products and respectively specialize in ceramic design and interaction design.



Tell us about your studio


KAE is a product design studio we set up to vitalize the homeware industry through innovative techniques and creative application of sustainable materials.



What is special about your design philosophy?


We combine multiple aesthetics and various forms of media in our approach, transforming existing materials into a new design language.






Which is your favourite piece of work?


Coffire is the lamp collection we created using a special colouring technique inspired by ancient pit firing. During low temperature firing at between 700 and 1000 degrees Celsius, coffee grounds would release biodiesel and sugar, which react and create a random reddish pattern on the ceramic surface as a result of multiple variables including temperature, humidity, and coffee grounds density.


Traditional sand pits are replaced by gas kilns during the firing process, which as a modern firing option, are easier to control and more suitable for mass production. Moreover, the final products are more saturated and stable in colour since gas kilns can be set at a constant temperature and provide a cleaner environment without trace elements.









Why did you choose coffee grounds as the colouring matter?


Most coffee grounds end up as waste, which is energy consuming and could be environmentally hazardous. We practiced sustainable design concept in the Coffire project and proposed a possible solution to coffee grounds disposal.





What affects you the most in your work for KAE? And how do you balance functionality and artistic conception?


We will return to materials, functions, aesthetics and other equally important issues after forming a basic idea. The randomness of material research is also embraced and appreciated in our work approach and visual language.







What is the DNA of KAE?

We are happy to see the aesthetics of form and functional attributes return to the matter, and to find the new meaning of design through rational deconstruction and perceptual reconstruction.



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