The Story Of Melvin Ong, the founder of Desinere
Tell us more about Desinere.
I came across the word Desinere in a book by George Prochnik (In Pursuit of Silence) and it was such an inspiration and apt description of how I approached my designs. Desinere is the Latin root of the word silence, also meaning ‘stop’. And this type of stopping can be described as one where an individual comes to a pause to take in a sensory measure of the world.
For me design has always been a process of quiet reflection and observation. I was very conscious that I wanted to maintain this sensitivity in my work so as I do not lose myself in the process of ‘doing’.
Hence when I started Desinere I want to create stories with objects, and drawing inspiration from the little unexpected discoveries in life that only becomes noticeable when we filter out the clutter and noise around us.
How do you come up with a new product or design ? Where do you draw inspiration from and how is your design process like ?
Often most of my designs are not conceived at my desk. I’ll usually spend a relaxing afternoon at a café or somewhere quiet just to take step back from my daily routine. It’s quite therapeutic actually and it’s easier to hear myself think.
Inspiration for me comes from the little things in life that we often pass by without giving a second thought. For example, the idea for the Rok concrete paperweights came about as I walked past a construction site and saw the workers casting slabs of concrete. As I turned around the corner I spotted little plants growing through the cracks of a worn out concrete pavement, and it hit me that if I could design an object using such a dull and monolithic material, and change its perception to one that was totally the opposite of its inert nature and exist as an ornate item that would be quite cool.
We've been told that you work on paper models using various pleating techniques and you even hand cast your concrete wares piece by piece using traditional moulds. Is there a rational for such a handcrafted approach ?
When I started the studio I wanted it to be a continuous journey of exploring different materials and learning new making processes, and the best way to do this was to have a first hand/hands-on experience. Hence as much as possible with subsequent products I always look to try different things.
I realized that if I only looked inwardly at my field of furniture /product design at some point things will start to stagnant hence I make it a conscious effort to make each new project a learning experience mostly through collaborations with designers and artists from different fields.
We've seen the amazing video of your collaboration with Elyn of Stolen. How did that come about ?
This was actually initiated by Elyn, prior to our collaboration, my close friend Jovian (Jovian Lim photography) introduced Elyn to my work with paper and the aesthetics of the folds and pleats were synonymous with the designs and details that she imbues in her backless gowns. Hence the 3 us did our first collaboration together where we incorporated elements of fashion, photography and paper pleating.
Local collaborations are amazing, speaking of which Ivan of Green Banana mentioned that you guys were working on something together as well ?
Yes we are currently in the midst of designing a series of vessels and planters that incorporate his terrariums with the added functionality of being a tray or lamp as well. It’s still at the initial stages so we are still trying to tie down several details.
You've worked in London before, what are your thoughts on the local design scene in the past couple of years ?
It’s definitely more exciting, and it’s been great to see more popup events and workshops happening. I’m also starting to see more of my peers stepping out of the comfort zone of a regular 9-5 job and venturing into their own business in the creative field. So although it’s not been easy, it’s very encouraging and inspiring to see the local design scene growing.
What are you reading now ?
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It's a brilliant mashup parody novel combining Jane Austen's classic 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice with elements of modern zombie fiction. It is so wrong on many levels but very original and bold.
Any advise for aspiring designers out there ?
I would say focus on making a good product that is honest and do not compromise and look for shortcuts. How much heart you put into your craft is obvious so be passionate and it’s really important to have a positive attitude even when things get tough.
[Photo credits : Desinere , The General Co]