Elisa Strozyk’s hybrid design The wood that cloth is made of

Elisa Strozyk „Wooden Textile“
Elisa Strozyk „Wooden Textile“ | Photo (detail): Sebastian Neeb, 2009

While other 30-year-olds are still in the search for their identity, Elisa Strozyk has long made a name for herself in the international design scene. Her extraordinary wood textiles have already earned her many prizes, among them, the Young Talent Design Prize of the Federal Republic of Germany. Her work can be seen worldwide in exhibitions and fairs such as Design Miami.

Elisa Strozyk’s favorite material is wood – an unusual choice for a textile designer. Instead of using yarn, fabric, weaving and knitting techniques, she resorts to paper-thin wooden panels to create her textiles, such as blankets or rugs. “I was inspired by the idea of combining the two conventional types of flooring, wood and carpeting, and blending them into one,” says the designer. “I wanted to create flooring that you can roll up as a rug and place in another room.”

Strozyk’s Wooden Carpet, her Colored Wooden Rug and most of her other objects have one thing in common: traditional materials and techniques are put in a different unfamiliar context and interpreted anew, creating an unusual tactile experience. Using this approach, the young artist from Berlin succeeds in creating pieces that amaze and surprise time and again: these wooden objects boasting textile properties have never been seen before. “In our daily lives, we are used to regarding wood as a hard material – we find it in table boards, flooring or tree trunks,” she adds. Her Wooden Textiles seem familiar at a first glance. Yet once you touch them and are able to move and bend and shape them in unusual ways, you can’t help but be amazed. “Is this wood or fabric now?” you wonder. Elisa Strozyk likes to think of them as vexing hybrids: “They are half wood, half fabric, soft and hard at the same time. They challenge us to question what to expect in general from a given material or type of object.”

Elisa Strozyk studied textile design in Berlin, Paris and London. She learned the technical ropes of her craft at the Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weißensee (Art Academy of Berlin). She obtained further professional training as a classic textile designer at the École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs (ENSAD) in Paris. But her studies at the prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design in London motivated her like no other. Strozyk believes textile design plays a much more important role in England than in Germany. “The Masters program Future Textiles is unique. It has an eye to the future and puts an emphasis on innovative approaches in design. We were encouraged to develop scenarios of how textiles could look and work in ten, twenty or fifty years,” she recounts. The focus was on key topics such as sustainability, projects with scientists as well as intelligent materials, that is, materials that reacted to the environment in the most diverse ways.

  • Elisa Strozyk, “WOODEN CARPET”, produced by BOEWER Photo: Tillmann Franzen, 2010
    Elisa Strozyk, “WOODEN CARPET”, produced by BOEWER
  • Elisa Strozyk in collaboration with Sebastian Neeb “Accordion Cabinet” Photos: Sebastian Neeb, 2011
    Elisa Strozyk in collaboration with Sebastian Neeb “Accordion Cabinet”
  • Elisa Strozyk “WOODEN CARPET”, produced by BOEWER Photo: Axel Struwe, 2010
    Elisa Strozyk “WOODEN CARPET”, produced by BOEWER
  • Elisa Strozyk “WOODEN CARPET”, produced by BOEWER Photo: Axel Struwe, 2010
    Elisa Strozyk “WOODEN CARPET”, produced by BOEWER
  • Elisa Strozyk “Wooden Textile” Photo: Sebastian Neeb, 2009
    Elisa Strozyk “Wooden Textile”
  • Portrait Strozyk Photo: Sebastian Neeb, 2011
    Portrait Strozyk

Elisa Strozyk crafts all her products by hand. She can spend an entire week working on a blanket, for example. “Working like this gives me a sense of calm,” says the 30-year-old, who shares a studio with other artists in Berlin. She cuts tens of thousands of triangular wooden veneer pieces with laser and then applies them with the desired texture on cloth, mostly linen. The veneer is 0.6 mm thin, fine and flexible. It is an elaborate process where she blends craftsmanship and design, while also allowing the element of chance to play a role. The material is built little by little – much in the same way as in weaving. “I can stop any time to intervene and make a change, depart from my original idea and try out something new.”

The time-consuming craftsmanship of Elisa’s Strozyk’s objects makes them valuable, one-of-a-kind pieces. She cannot produce them in large quantities – nor does she want to. She doesn’t have to, either. A market for Limited Edition design – high-quality exclusive products in small runs – has emerged in recent years. With her objects selling for Euro 1000 to Euro 9000 on average at art fairs such as Design Miami, which is held at the same time as Art Basel, Strozyk is now able to live off her work.

At the end of 2011 Elisa Strozyk and the artist Sebastian Neeb were invited by fashion company Fendi to showcase their work with an installation at Design Miami. For the event, the artists created furniture sculptures marked by an aura of mystery: they took chests of drawers, tables and glass cabinets from the 18th century and radically transformed them, using leather and the wooden textiles to distort their original appearance. “Although the pieces partially have a very sculptural element in them, I would like people to use and handle them like everyday objects,” Elisa Strozyk pointed out. Indeed, why not? Nothing wrong about sculptures suitable for everyday use!