Designblok highlights the role of passion in the creative process

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The biggest annual design festival in the Czech Republic, Designblok, gets underway in Prague on Wednesday. Due to the state of emergency, the 22nd edition of the event is limited to exhibitions, the accompanying lectures, workshops and events having had to be cancelled. I caught up with the festival’s director, Jana Zielinski, at Designblok’s new centre, a former monastery of Saint Gabriel at Prague’s District of Smíchov, and I started by asking her about the choice of this year’s main theme, Passion.

“I think if you have a passion for something, then you are able to overcome various obstacles and create something that goes beyond you. We think that if you really want to make something extraordinary in design, you have to have a very strong passion for it.

“But you need to have a passion not just for design, but also for manufacturing and for craftsmanship. So we decided to focus on the basis of design, which is production. It’s the art of high-quality craftsmanship, which is always connected with good design. And then you can have a perfect product. “

So how is this topic reflected in the exhibits?

“Our main exhibition is called ‘Passion’. We have prepared it together with the renowned Czech designer Jan Plecháč, who loves motorbikes. We have bought together a very old Jawa bicycle, which is about 50 years old.

“We have 12 craftsmen, working with leather, glass and timber. They work together directly at the exhibition to turn this old Jawa into a real jewel of contemporary design.

“So for instance the lights will be made of cut glass and the leather will have illustrations in it. And in the end, on Sunday, we will see what skilled craftsmen can create within six days.

“Because we as consumers are no longer used to going to manufacturers to see how things are produced. We have no idea what is behind the objects that we buy. This is what we are trying to show.”

 Designblok's new centre - former monastery of Saint Gabriel, photo: archive of Designblok

Can you mention some other highlights of this year’s edition of Designblok?

“Definitely for me it’s the exhibition of two brands, the Swiss brand Vitra and the Czech brand Křehký. It’s a connection which is very unusual, because Křehký makes mostly porcelain and Vitra produces furniture.

“We hired a Czech scenographer from Na Zábradlí theatre and he created a really beautiful scene for the products of these two companies in a former library in this old monastery. So I think this will be visually very attractive to visitors.

“But there are a lot of other highlights. I have to say that we have more than 50 Czech companies, Czech original producers who present their furniture, their porcelain, their new glass collections.

“It is amazing that even in this period of crisis there are new collections which are being produced and that Czech companies rely more and more on high-quality design. So this is what we are trying to highlight.”