Marleen Kaptein, founder of Studio Kaptein

JEC Composites Magazine interviewed Marleen Kaptein, a designer who pursued her passion throughout her career, exploring contemporary materials and questioning the traditional way they are used in design and manufacturing.

Marleen Kaptein, founder of Studio Kaptein

4 minutes, 30 secondes

Marleen Kaptein, who graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven in 1997, became an embedded artist at the Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR), a research institute that develops future technologies and materials for aviation and space travel.

She works closely with aerospace engineers, whose innovations derive from strict and proven calculations, simulations and testing. Kaptein brings her creative experience, unconventional views, and intuition to this highly technical world. The meeting of these two different worlds resulted in new shapes and solutions, as can be seen in a number of her signature works. Her Fibre Placement Chair was purchased in 2016 by the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam for their permanent collection. The Recycled Carbon Chair was acquired by the Vitra Museum (Weil am Rhein), and Kaptein’s Fibre Placement Lights can be seen in the Textile Museum in Tilburg.

JEC Composites Magazine: Can you tell us the story behind the Parallax Series?
Marleen Kaptein:
“The Parallax Series brings together dedicated craftsmanship, the wonders of nature, and state-of-the-art aerospace materials.

Each piece exists to bring a world of wonder to the rooms and spaces they inhabit. The collection captures the feeling of starlings in murmuration. As they twist and turn through the sky in unison, each bird seems connected, reacting as one at a moment’s notice. This magical movement can be seen in the complex dance of lines and shapes suspended in each piece. Ever-changing. Wonderfully unique. A living pattern.

Parallax Series Chandelier : The Parallax Series consists of six different chandeliers and pendant lights.

The Parallax Series consists of six different chandeliers and pendant lights. Suspended in the air, the chandeliers’ carbon lines lead the design, creating a parallax that reveals something new to the viewer from every angle. The art is designed to inspire as well as illuminate, offering infinite combinations of light and shadow. Each piece is created specifically for the client’s needs and can be custom made for particular spaces.”

JEC Composites Magazine: Why did you choose carbon?
Marleen Kaptein: “When I started at the Royal NLR as an artist in residence, they gave me a roll of 1/8″ prepreg tow. I spent many hours working with it, so that I became familiar and made all kinds of tests and experiments. During that time, I formed an almost affectionate bond with the material. The material’s lightness, the graphics of the black lines and their way of reflecting light after they are cured create the objects I envisioned in my mind’s eye. At the same time, the material had its quirks, the strength and fragility were also challenges to overcome. To be honest, all these facets are what I love to work with.”

Parallax Series Chandelier : Suspended in the air, the chandeliers’ carbon lines lead the design, creating a parallax that reveals something new to the viewer from every angle.

JEC Composites Magazine: New materials open up an extraordinary field of language experimentation that enables the designer to interact directly with physical matter. Could you tell us about your experience with carbon composites when you created the Parallax Series?
Marleen Kaptein: “By experimenting with prepreg tows, I found that you can make very large and light volumes that you can hang on a thin wire. The nice thing about these lamps is that they have an added dimension: they blow in the wind, which causes them to cast shadows on the surrounding environment.”

Recycled Carbon Chair : 96% of the chair is made of recycled carbon from cutting waste. 4% make up the backrest and seat, which are made from carbon fibre tape, printed by the robot and fused together as it cools down. The robot lays down the entire pattern in large sheets and Kaptein cuts the backrest and seat from this. Therefore, each chair has a unique design. The Recycled Carbon Chair is part of the collection of the Vitra Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany. Recycled carbon – width 46 cm, height 55 cm, depth 86 cm.

JEC Composites Magazine: The experimentation extends to the world of research, where the material itself becomes the object of the invention and the subject around which it focuses leads to more and more innovation. Do you agree?
Marleen Kaptein: “When you make experiments, you are mainly concerned with the trial-and-error process, and this leaves room for new results. You can fine-tune these results later to make them functional. This is impossible in aviation, and fortunately so, and my objects don’t have to fly. Though they could be used in an airplane as interior objects. The fact that airplanes emerged from the trial-and-error process is something I enjoy.”

JEC Composites Magazine: You were the first designer to use a fibre placement robot for furniture design. The resulting Fibre Placement Chair was purchased by the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam ​in 2016 and then by the Vitra Museum (Weil am Rhein). Why did you choose recycled carbon?​
Marleen Kaptein: “During my stay at the Royal NLR (National Aerospace Centre), I created two chairs. The Fibre Placement Chair was assembled by a robot arm that laid tows line by line. The Carbon Recycled Chair was made from a combination of waste carbon material. I had heard that quite a bit of expensive carbon material is wasted, being thrown away. So, I started experimenting with the waste and made the chair frame with it. One external detail about the chair is that you can see it is made from recycled material.”

JEC Composites Magazine: Do you plan to keep using carbon for your future projects?
Marleen Kaptein: “I still have a lot of plans with the materials I am using in my Parallax Serie because there are still so many great possibilities. So, yes, I am happy to continue working with carbon fibre. Meanwhile, I keep experimenting with different types of material and it is possible that in the future I will be able to use the techniques I have mastered on a different type of fibre.”

Photos credits: Koninklijke NLR – Nederlands Lucht- en Ruimtevaartcentrum (Royal Netherlands Aerospace Centre). Photography: Maarten Willemstein

Fibre Placement Robot : The National Aerospace Centre gave Marleen Kaptein unique access to their fibre placement robot. This machine is capable of placing thin but strong carbon tape in all directions.
Fibre Placement Chair : The fibre placement robot slowly lays carbon tape to make amazing patterns that, when combined, take the form of a stunning chair. The Fibre Placement Chair is exhibited in the main collection of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.
More information www.marleenkaptein.com