He’s worked with Limoges porcelain in France; made modern Kutani ware for Choemon in Japan’s Ishikawa prefecture; and designed eccentric objets d’arts, vases and tableware for some of the biggest names in porcelain the likes of Bosa, Vista Alegre and Lladró. But for the first time in his 20-year career, Madrid-born Jaime Hayon has just addressed an audience about a very different ceramic “ware” – sanitary ware.
Yes, the prolific designer known for his uplifting sense of humour, has spent the last few minutes expounding his vision for a simple yet imminently sophisticated wall-hung toilet. Designed for and made by TOTO, it is one of three commodes from a full suite of toilet bowls, sinks, faucets and showers from the eponymous TOTO by HAYON collection that he’s flown into Jakarta to launch.
“To me, this whole project is about a search for simplicity in form, but sophistication in function,” he had said. Inspiration was further derived from the human body. “I thought about the curves of the human form, of the lack of harsh angles in our bodies and decided that every element had to reflect the human body in a way.”
Though thoughtful and considered, the eponymous collection isn’t without mirth or sex appeal either. Hayon is, after all, both a “visionary” (TIME magazine) and “The Clown Prince of Design” (Financial Times). It is this levity and the designer’s psyche, which we discuss over coffee.
While you are known for whimsy, TOTO by HAYON was born from your search for simplicity. Even then, one toilet bowl is like a pelican’s beak and the mirrors have ears…
I like the idea of people smiling when they see something I’ve designed and thinking it’s more positive than negative. People tend to take themselves too seriously. Us Spanish, we don’t take ourselves that seriously, we live our lives. We know life is difficult, but we dont show it.
What did you enjoy about this project?
It was interesting working with TOTO because you regard them as a large company, but when you talk, you sit down face to face with [an] owner. I’ve worked with so many others, and you never talk with the boss. It’s only at the end of the process when you might be introduced to him or her. Soit was beautiful speaking with the family [behind TOTO Indonesia] and seeing their love for the company and project.
After every project, do you close the book on it, or do you continue thinking about how things could have been done?
Nothing is ever over. A good creative or researcher is always trying to improve, or it’ll just be boring. I’m not only a designer. I work in the arts a lot and have completed a number of installations. Jumping from one discipline to another ensures that I’m never completely fixed in a particular mindset. It becomes a dialogue between disciplines and works. Like when I’m commissioned to do an interior, I don’t feel like I’m only going to solve the problems of that one client. I also think to myself, “Jaime, you have the opportunity to make a new lamp or use that textile that you wanted to before.”
Is there something in particular that you’d want to design next?
No. It’s not that I’ve done everything, I don’t even think about it. I just go with the flow. I mean some things I like more than others. Maybe sneakers; I’d love to do sneakers. I’d know how to do that. I’d like to do a nice pen as well, since I collect pens and pencils. Maybe if it’s a passion of mine, I’d express myself well.
Is it hard to get work done when you travel as much as you do?
I travel half the year. My base is in Europe, but I can literally be anywhere. I’m in Asia at least once a month. But with a piece of paper, I can always sketch, and I send these off on my iPhone. WhatsApp is the new office and my team is very organised. Technology makes everything simple now. Your mood board can be Pinterest. It’s incredible how the tool analyses data. For example, if I search a hotel project of mine, it’ll generate other references with similar colour schemes or ambience. Do you know how long it used to take us to design? We used to refer to actual colour charts in the past!
Do you ever just disconnect?
I have an analog phone that I change to on the weekends. It doesn’t have data, but it allows my family to reach me in case of emergencies. You know what’s funny? This is what I’m thinking to myself right now – I feel like I haven’t done my TOTO x HAYON presentation [that took place earlier in the day], because I haven’t put it up on Instagram yet. It’s like something doesn’t exist until you post it.
TOTO retails at W.Atelier, 201 Henderson Road, #01-01