How it’s made: Germans Ermičs
We visit the cult-favourite Latvian designer, who’s known for his striking approach to glass design, his conceptual thinking and his dynamic use of colour
Germans Ermičs describes himself as an ‘existential’ designer. His work may have taken him from the studios of Eindhoven to the French Riviera, but in between, he says he’s just been trying to figure out what it all means.
Born and raised in Riga, Latvia, Ermičs’s first passion was sport. A focused athlete, much of his free time was taken up with ice hockey training, until at the age of 16 he began to design posters for his friends’ music gigs. “I don’t know if I even considered it being creative,” he says. “I just liked doing it.” When people started to pay him, the hobby soon turned into a modest enterprise, and it provided Ermičs with a glimpse of a career path that would mould him into the critically acclaimed conceptual designer he is today.
When most of his classmates went on to study subjects like economics and business, Ermičs headed to art school in Copenhagen. Here, he built up a portfolio, before taking on an internship in a graphic design studio for a year. Being in Denmark, he says, was eye-opening. “Latvia has a complicated history. We produced many industrial objects for the former Soviet Union despite being a small nation, but that kind of design didn’t resonate with me.”
In Denmark, though, he found what he had been looking for, and it was while living among objects crafted by the likes of Arne Jacobsen that he figured out his direction. “Regular families would have design pieces around their homes, and to me, that was a new thing,” he adds. “It’s a culture, and people live with design and learn through it – they’re surrounded by all these iconic designers, architects and artists”.
From Denmark, he went onto study at the Design Academy in Eindhoven, an institution that’s known for fostering ambitious, conceptual designers. It was here that Germans fell in love with a Dutch company called Droog, which championed The Netherlands’ contemporary design scene in the ‘90s. “The approach they took with materials; making artistic and sculptural pieces fascinated me,” Ermičs says. Inspired, he began to play with sculpture, designing objects and artefacts alongside his graphic design course.
A lightbulb moment came when he met the Italian gallerist Rosanna Orlandi. She had visited the school’s graduation show, spotted his “Isometric Mirrors” project, and invited Ermičs to exhibit at her Milanese space during the city’s design week. Looking back, it was a real sign of things to come from the designer, now known for his work with glass, colour and often a healthy dose of trompe-l’œil. “The project encompassed three mirrors that made an optical illusion, to seem like there were holes in the wall,” he explains.
Even now, and despite most of his work making use of the material, Ermičs is reluctant to call himself a glass designer. “That’s just not me,” he says, “I just work with colour and the material is the vessel.” Whether or not he chooses to big up his process, it resonates with a huge audience – both fans and clients alike.
Ermičs divides his work into different project types; those with galleries, those with interior designers and those with architects. Each requires a different approach, but their beginnings are often the same. “I begin by thinking conceptually, working with the initial idea before starting to visualise through sketches and 3D models,” he explains.
His creations have taken many forms – he’s created a beachfront pavilion for Instagram, a collection of rugs for renowned textile brand CC-Tapis, and an experimental touch-activated speaker for Bang & Olufsen – so he’s had to get comfortable working alongside other experts.
I really enjoy working with craftspeople and fabricators because that’s the part of the process where I learn something, and where I challenge myself,” Ermičs says. “Designers often don’t know everything – you do your sketch and hope for the best that it can be made. The fun really starts when you start working with a fabricator and trying to figure out how to put things together.”
Despite this well-honed methodology and an impressive roster of collaborators, worldwide acclaim, money, or fame aren’t the goals for Ermičs. The start of each new project, he says, comes with a slew of questions. “I love to make my own sense of everything,” he says with a shy smile. “I want to stay true to my intuition, and true to my vision of how I want to work.”