Parts of a whole: delving into Diederik Schneemann’s Cherished collection

The Belgian designer works at the intersection of art and design to give rare collectibles a second life through his work.

by Devanshi ShahPublished on : Mar 13, 2021

From the Cabinet of Curiosities to the grand arcades of museums, the idea of collecting has grown well beyond the accumulation of relics, curios and antiquities. In a more contemporary setting, one can see an upsurge in manufactured collectibles driven by hobbyists, phillumeny as well as toys and comic books. This has fuelled an interesting development in graphic design and product design for souvenirs or even event related memorabilia. While the collecting of manufactured collectibles is still largely considered a hobby, it would be hard to dismiss the emotional connection that is built between the collector and the collection. These objects often have a greater value as an amalgamation rather than individual items. This value is not just monetary. Each individual item is mass produced. It is one of many that are exactly the same, the importance of the single item only gets amplified when it is part of its entire collection. Working with this complexity of collective meaning, emotional connection and the binary scale of the object and the collection is Diederik Schneemann’s Cherished collection.

Cherished collection: Smurf Dynasty Ming vase | Cherished collection | Diederik Schneemann | STIRworld
Cherished collection: Smurf Dynasty Ming vase Image: Courtesy of Diederik Schneemann

Creating usable yet abstract objects, Schneemann takes well-known and iconic forms or products like matchboxes, Smurfs, perfume bottles, or cigarette-bands to create pieces of furniture. The collection works in layers. The one closest to the designer’s methodology is the personal story embedded within. Where some see a meaningless pile of scrap, Schneemann sees stories, creating a physical manifestation to the idiom ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure'. In a conversation with STIR, Schneemann elaborated on his vision, saying, “The inspiration of all my work comes from the fascination of existing objects or designs. Working with objects that possess an extra quality, more than the purity of the material itself gives me great joy. The Cherished collection came from a question I asked myself. What and who determines the value of a design or art piece? I was interested in the fact that a personal collection can be really valuable for one and worthless to the other. But who is to say that a one-of-a-kind piece of marble which, with great effort, was excavated from a mountain is more valuable than a one-of-a-kind collection that is amassed and cherished for more than 35 years? That takes a lot of love and dedication too.”

Cherished collection: Essence Chandelier | Cherished collection | Diederik Schneemann | STIRworld
Cherished collection: Essence Chandelier Image: Courtesy of Diederik Schneemann

Schneemann values concept over the attractiveness of an object. The form of his work is a combination of understanding the material he is working with and his concept, believing that if the relation between the two is powerful enough the object would have autonomy independent of its aesthetic appearance. Schneemann elaborated on the process of acquiring and working with this material, explaining, “The material which I work with to create these pieces are very different. I always look at the collectable items to see how I can use them, to ensure they are showcased in a piece. Take the composition of the matchboxes for instance. We created a lot of samples to find a balance between the number of images and the typical characteristics of the iconic matchboxes that would be visible in the final piece. The bigger pieces often consist of multiple collections, which have been accumulated and cherished for more than a decade. At the moment I sometimes feel like a curator of acquired collections, as I am collecting collections now.”

Cherished collection: Happy Vase | Cherished collection | Diederik Schneemann | STIRworld
Cherished collection: Happy Vase Image: Courtesy of Diederik Schneemann

The Cherished collection is made by re-using items, altering their looks and giving them a second life. The transformative act is a play on scale, time and distance. Each item is self-contained, and small, from a particular time, from a particular place. When it is included into a larger body of work, the individual item becomes a part of a whole. Schneemann explained, “With a little imagination you can visualise where all these matchboxes have been and see what histories and memories are captured in these pieces. By using personal collections in such a delicate way, as if they were very valuable, it all comes together and makes you look at the collection in a totally different way. It becomes a part of something else something unique, capturing a time that has passed.” The matchboxes used in both the clock and the cupboard come from a collection acquired from all over the world from the early fifties to the nineties, with locations ranging from holiday retreats to hotels in Japan. Yet the sentimentality does not transfer to the larger object but rather as an aspect that requires a closer look, as it should be for something so cherished.

Cherished collection: Matchbox King Clock | Cherished collection | Diederik Schneemann | STIRworld
Cherished collection: Matchbox King Clock Image: Courtesy of Diederik Schneemann

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