International design studio UMÉ Studio, recognized for its ability to meld an appreciation for traditional craft with contemporary tastes and to delicately balance between the worlds of art and design, is pleased to unveil its latest series of limited edition items. Informed by designers Mei-Lan Tan and Victor Lefebvre’s nomadic lifestyle, learning from artisans trained in century-old skills and techniques, the pieces intentionally blur the line between art and craft.
Recently named to the Dwell 24, a collection of two-dozen, up-andcoming designers to watch according to Dwell Magazine, Tan and Lefebvre have quickly made a name for themselves as multidisciplinary
design practitioners, known for drawing upon their experiences at cutting-edge firms Herzog & de Meuron and Kengo Kuma. They develop new works slowly and mindfully with the intention of designing each object from the standpoint of its making, as well as its historical, societal and experiential meaning. The results are items that question function to become singular experiences.
As a growing multidisciplinary practice with works that span objets d’art to larger furnishings and architecture, Tan and Lefebvre’s considered approach explores how beauty and function can interact and even shift over time regardless of the scale of the work. What remains consistent is that each work is imbued with a sense of story and wonder that allows it to be experienced as a work of art.
Following a debut collection focused on objects for the everyday, the studio is expanding its focus into limited edition items and furniture. Inspired by a year and half of “nomadic” design and collaborations on three continents, in cities as diverse as Oakland, Ubud and Versailles, the new series of timeless pieces are imbued with the ideas of ritual and craft. They tell stories and are more than just objects—they are experiences worth remembering.
Pricing for the new limited edition items ranges from $245 to $2100.
Sake Tampo Silver Cups
The Sake Tampo Silver Cups are inspired by the themes of worship and ritual. Developed with Indonesian craftsmen after UME spent a year studying their techniques, each one is similar in inspiration to silver chalices found in Indonesian temples to hold holy water. The name “Sake Tampo” also draws from the vessels used to warm up sake in Japan. Made in a similar fashion, each cup is meant to create a moment of ritual for the user.
Designed as a series, the cups are entirely handmade, just the work of the hammer and the hand.
Experimentation and experience are central components of UME’s work. Each year, the studio releases one special limited edition piece that deeply embodies those values; this year, the focus was on wax and casting techniques.
The Candle Pit is a large-scale candle inspired by the landscapes of Iceland. Designed as a story that unfolds slowly, the candle is the result of research on both Japanese and French candle-making techniques, as well as the use of candles for rituals. It is less about its shape than the way it burns, fast at first, revealing dramatic peaks and ridges, then very slowly as the wax spills out drawing convoluted motifs around it in an evocation of volcanic landscapes. Burning the candle becomes an experience between live painting, its tray being the canvas, and the contemplative hypnosis of a chimney fire. No two candles burn the same, and thus, no two candles tell the same story.
Reminiscent of primitive designs found throughout history, the Henge Bookends speak to the early act of carving stone, which represented the first forms of design expression or control. The simplicity of the undulating carved stone offers an allegory on our tamed nature, reflecting on everything from evolution to the beauty of the book. As such, each immutable stone piece mimics a standing book.
Drawing from Oakland’s rich history of blacksmithing, the Paper Table is both an homage to an industry and a twist on a material that colors Oakland’s craft community. Where metal implies sturdiness and calls for strong industrial motifs, the table is a play on our own sense of balance. It questions the thinness of both surface and structure, in a quest for minimal expression. The metal sheet becomes paper-like, levitating and supported by an elegant series of V legs. The result is the perfect balance between stability and thinness.
Select pieces from the debut collection also currently available include:
NEW SCENTS RELEASED - Erode Soap Summit Series
A tactile object by nature, the Erode Soap Summit Series becomes one of desire and play, adding a different kind of beauty to the daily ritual of bathing. The design’s luscious and unique shape suggests its own obsolescence—the slopes are meant to be rubbed, the ridges meant to be worn off. Each soap is poured and cast by hand, and no two soaps are the same. Three new scents are being released this fall: White Grapefruit, Cedar Sandalwood, and Lavender Creme.
A collection of 104 unique bowls, the Concrete Series expresses the tension between heavy concrete and its delicate edge generated by hand pouring. While one assumes concrete should be strong and durable, it is, at its core, fragile. This duality invites touch and contemplation, making it the perfect vessel for daily inspiration and display.
Draped Flowers Curtain
An ever-changing living vertical divider, the Draped Flowers Curtain contains over 100 pockets where fresh flowers can be placed, transforming the space it inhabits by offering a landscape of seasonality and personal contexts. The limited run of 30 curtains are knit from a durable thread spun from Washi - a paper made of Manilla jute. As nature’s own room divider, the flora within the curtain is the owner’s choosing, free to design a floral tableau whose appearance and scent are ever changing and in sync with the seasons.
About UMÉ Studio (www.ume-studio.com)
Founded by designer/architects Mei-Lan Tan and Victor Lefebvre, UMÉ Studio is a multidisciplinary design practice that blurs the boundaries between art, craft, and experience.
Through methodical experimentation and a thoughtful critique of everything designed, they aim to find the space where disciplines merge.
Partnering with designers and artisans in California, Paris, Kyoto, Ubud and beyond, they draw upon a range of diverse skills, perspectives, and traditions.
“Our production is not one of products, but of stories.
Products are things we buy and discard, stories are kept and cherished.
We believe this way design is anchored in time.
And this is how an object becomes a ritual.”