Syros is a beautiful Greek island that, apart from its numerous beaches and interesting sightseeings, is hiding more attractions for the design curious traveller. Zaxos Stathopoulos is the leading brain behind zound systems, a creative initiative that is trying to generate its own visual vocabulary on contemporary furniture. Not being afraid of using concepts neither bold application of colour, zound systems recycle and reinvent ideas and materials in order to create the elements of a particular universe. In their case, it is a universe full of arty creations, with strong personality and stories to tell. Investigating and inspired by concepts like atavism, metabolism, raw data, fabela architecture, waste and biosphere principles, they create objects that, as they point out, carry messages, answers and evidence for a secret tale written for a single reader. It comes of no surprise then that one can find in zound systems’ world from ideal creations for dark princes till furniture that even seems alive. If all of that sounds confusing, continue reading our exclusive interview of Zaxos that casts a light. You can even get some extra excuses for organizing your next vacations at Syros!
How did your adventure start?
I guess it all started with string and tree branches. Then I got educated, so I could be useful for society… Anyway, everything began after my internship at the Atelier Van Lieshout. AVL was a great school. They knew the ways for being true to your designs. So when I moved back to Syros (to finish my second degree) I rented a place at a small rural village and slowly set up the studio. At the beginning, commissions where hard to get and clients needed to learn more about design. I am optimistic that in the future more designers will practice their profession and great things will occur.
You are fond of simplicity. In your site you mention that simplicity means easy, no need for extra questions and instruction manuals. In which way this concept affects the designing and manufacturing process of your creations?
There are certain difficulties when you set up a design studio at a small island. The network of services and materials serves local needs. Some of these are architectural development, marine design / construction and agriculture. Modern technologies and innovative materials are hard to find in a small market like the one of Syros. So in a way you have to work with what you can get. Another issue of design complexity is that, most of the times, it means manufacturing difficulties. That is not a major problem since it can be solved by organized planning. Nevertheless, it increases workshop costs, storage of materials and the introduction of out sourced services (the black hole of deadlines). One of my first contracts was the design and construction of a very demanding theater set. The post production required a user manual and a video, so that the set could be assembled without the need of zound system’s crew. Chaos and disaster soon appeared. At that point I realized that in theory design can solve and explain any problem but experience tells that users tend to appreciate simplicity. Who doesn’t? Simple works.
PIN STOOL - Amigos series | Metal, velvet, wood and resin | z: 600mm | x: 500mm | y: 500mm
You mention that Zound systems is a concept orientated studio and that every one of its objects is imbued with a specific character while at the same time never loses sight of the larger line. What are the main concepts you have used till now? Which are the peculiarities and difficulties of concept design?
Sustainable development led to the notion of atavism. Urban development revived the core theory of the brutal movement. Systems theory provided a new approach for managing data. The D.I.Y. movement reinterpreted the need of one’s self exploration. Mass media vanity introduced humor in all aspects of our lives. Concept design deals with raw creative energy. It is fueled with potential energy acquired by experience. The tricky part is to allow all possible media to communicate with each other. When a concept is investigated, ideas are drawn to it like bugs do with fluorescent light. One has to find a way to protect them from dying, or else the concept will eventually become a magnet of depression. I try to hover above everyday thoughts. This is easy to do when you distant your routine from an urban environment.
What are you currently working on?
A new understanding of anthropometry. I find modern ergonomics a joke. There are lists with dimensions and rules, but still most of the users have problems with chairs, tables, cupboards etc. I’m not suggesting a new scientific study, just a personal approach at furniture design.
LITTLE TABLE - Amigos series | This table is hand carved out of solid blocks of local pine. | z: 400mm | x: 300mm | y: 300mm
All of your furniture is hand made. Is there any philosophy hidden behind it?
I love machines, that’s not the issue here. The problem is speed. Mass production is a concentration camp that enslaves people. CAD technology and distant manufacturing creates a disconnection between the designer and the finished object. When you work with your hands, a part of yourself (sometimes literally) is merged in the design. You get to understand the material better and, first of all, you don’t have to spend days sitting on a chair in front of a computer monitor. I’m not going to lie, I find something spiritual while I learn from raw materials.
The Amigos series
The Amigos series is a humoristic and colourful take on how everyday furniture should be. What do you think about the contrast between their vivid colours and the all white spaces of the Greek islands like Syros?
White is a drug. It reflects light and speeds up colour. Therefore produces focus. Most of the creators are afraid of colour, because of its ability to form groups (synthesis). There is something untamable about it. Personal taste is brought to the light. No escape. The Greek islands, like other places as Morocco, Tunisia etc, tell a story about the simple lives of their habitants. One thing is for sure: the houses are filled with colourful objects and plants.
If you had to make a list of ten things that inspire you, how would it be?
Tell us something about your future projects.
I would like to change the scale of the objects and the studio.
FOOD CHAIR - Amigos series | This chair is hand carved out of solid blocks of local pine. | z: 900mm | x: 550mm | y: 400mm
PIXAR BAR - Amigos series
This two leged object is a small bar that can house 3 - 4 bottles of booze inside it. The cabinet has pre-installed 6 glasses of wine and a unique Zound Systems Studio cork opener. The feet are made out of wooden traditional shoemakers mock ups. A visit to the local butcher house provided the handle. A lot of thanks to the goat.
z: 900mm | x: 550mm | y: 600mm
CORNER LAMP - Amigos series
A high lamp made out of steel. The base is formed with Stathopoulos’s chicken leg design. This lamp has come to life to reinvestigate the tricky space formed at corners.
z: 1800mm | x: +- 600mm | y: +- 1200mm
CRANE LAMP - Amigos series
A low lamp made out of wood and metal. The base is hand carved out of various blocks of local pine.
z: 1200mm | x: +- 300mm | y: +- 500mm
to Digest - Metabolism series | scrap, ready made | (x: 90cm, y: 50cm, z: 137cm) | 2008