SKIN: Endless Creativity

By Jo Phillips


SKIN is to designers what LOVE is to the writers, a never endless source of inspiration.

I remember the first time I was aware of my own skin and the way it evolved with the environment and how its appearance evolved with time. SKIN is a constant source of inspiration , which is ignited from the first instance you realise how human skin can physically evolve- like a child, who stayed for too long in a bath or in a swimming pool, unaware that the environment was transforming the apperance of their skin.

Maybe, this feeling of fear and fascination are the genesis of the imagination which is still animating the mind of some artists or designers, who are using the skin as a way to express intimate feelings.

Today I also remember the first time I watched the french movie Donkey Skin from Jacques Demy. It was a revelation and disturbing to see such a fantastic story transgress the codes and boundaries of what is, for most people, something almost conventional.

Donkey Skin, 1970
Donkey Skin, 1970

The original story had been written by Charles Perrault (1694). Even if the songs in the movie are a bit dated today, ( it is from 1970) it is still a fantastic story about loves and identity, which has been beautifully translated by Jacques Demy. The topic and aesthetics of the movie are timeless and still very inspirational for designers. What you will remember as a child is this beautiful woman interpreted by Catherine Deneuve, running away from the love (which love?!?) of her father and hiding under a donkey skin.

I have no doubt that a cineast would give a different interpretation of that movie, because of the complexity of the symbols you will find in it. But as a designer and without having the pretention to develop a too complex message, it is important to go straight to the goal and use simple and comprehensive elements to pass a message to an audience. In that sense, Donkey Skin  is a great achievement … but I am not sure if I had nightmares or dreams after watching it.

It would be too limitative to consider the skin either human, animal or vegetal only, as it would be too restrictive for artists or designers to limitate the meaning of this word without taking in consideration the concepts of coating, which is nothing else than a  skin on top of an object.
So many opportunities are offered by engineers to the artists and designers these days. From colors, to functions to the property of materials. From space exploration to solar cells, to medical prostheses to jewellery to any art forms. Metallic coating, rubber coating ceramic coating…the boundaries of the meaning of skin has been pushed much further than we think and it opens so much of our imagination.


words by Antoine Sandoz


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