Artist, creator, gallery owner, designer: Philippe Cramer is hard to pin down. He was born in Switzerland to a family of art-loving gallery owners and publishers, and grew up with a lively sense of creativity. This enabled him, from his 20s, to bring into being pieces of furniture as dreamlike as they are practical, with a desire to both enchant the world and to furnish it. Rather than focusing on the decorative character of design, he promotes the essentiality in art. As an artist he draws upon his unconscious and his innate sensitivity to reach the universal. That is why his work summons up both antique archetypes and the inner child, combining both with an unsettling familiarity. Each object entices with its sensuality: the playful curve of forms, the joyous explosion of colour, the raw evidence of its material, the elegance of its refined lines.
Against the tide of hackneyed, mass-produced furniture, Philippe Cramer designs limited editions of products, made by exacting, passionate Swiss artisans. The cabinetmakers, ceramicists, lacquerers, embroiderers and glass blowers that he employs produce unique items, marked with minor natural imperfections, the sort that can only come from hand-crafting. Rejecting the doctrine of minimalism, modesty in expression and extreme functionalism, Philippe Cramer offers poetic and durable alternatives, produced from noble and precious materials, whose qualities confer a greater intrinsic worth on the object. His work attracts a public searching for exceptional pieces, notable for the originality of their concept and the quality of their realisation.
The artist owes his freedom of expression to having founded his own studio, Cramer + Cramer, in 2003. This has allowed him to retain his creative ideas in the face of the rationalisation, often financial, which can distort original artistic intentions.
Within his studio, Philippe Cramer produces the designs which can be purchased from his gallery, as well as bespoke items for collectors. Conceived as a laboratory, Cramer + Cramer is, above all, for the artist, a place of experimentation. He cherishes and uses traditional and historic techniques – blown glass, moulded porcelain, sculpted wood, embroidery with gold thread – as well as trying out new processes such as growing alum crystals, or plunging modelling clay into gold, inlaying wood with pearls or even using butterfly wings or feathers to decorate his furniture.
Philippe Cramer has also created products for other companies who share with him a taste for well-executed work, a love of the material and the ethical requirement of sustainability. Most recently, he has created accessories and furniture for the Petit h label, the experimental division of the Hermès Group, which encourages independent designers to express themselves freely by using remnants of its spectacular materials. Like the “slow design” movement, the artist undertakes to limit the social and ecological impact of his creations by using local and responsibly- sourced materials to create timeless pieces made for keeping, sharing and handing down.
Philippe Cramer’s work springs more from instinct than reason; it is an act, more than a concept. Each creation draws upon, as its source, the visceral, raw sensibility of the artist, his passion for travel and his fascination with the poetry of nature. His heart quickens, his eye rejoices, his hand, finally, forms familiar and playful items. An admirer of Brancusi, Arp and Max Bill, he enjoys creating a universe of the senses in which objects are in harmony with the infinite, with the image of finely-finished, simple and classical forms of furniture, complemented with delicate and organic porcelain or metalwork.
With his use of iridescent colours, cristals, organic forms, marble or natural wood veins, Philippe Cramer’s creations are in harmony with the world.