Jonas Lutz, born in Tammisaari, South-West Finland, had a unique upbringing which instilled a respect for handcraft and a dedication to freedom of expression.
Jonas was raised in a commune with his grandparents and parents, in an old school that was part of the Emmaus network – a community-based project dedicated to alleviating poverty and homelessness. When Jonas was 6, his parents and a neighbouring family purchased the school and began renovating. Jonas was surrounded by construction and materials, part of a community at work, which sparked a fascination with “people who could make things, who work with their hands.”
Jonas and his sister’s toys were off-cuts, making was their childhood play. At the time their mother was a ceramicist so the children also had access to her studio and kiln. His sister penned her first poem at 5 and is now a writer, Jonas expressed himself through his making. “It’s never been a question of whether or not to make something, it’s just the natural thing for me.”
Jonas didn’t realise design could be a career until he was in his mid-teens. His childhood of making gave him a natural advantage and praise from teachers made him realise his potential. When talking of his early studies, Jonas is wistful about ‘making’, without extensive planning. The search for freedom of expression is a characteristic of his design identity: “My work now is very refined but I do some pieces with a chainsaw that are more sculptural, rough-hewn.”
While furniture making demands refinement, ceramics remain an outlet, what Jonas describes as pure artistic expression. The combination of the two provides balance for the designer. His years of study can be seen as a constant pushing of boundaries. Jonas began studying design in Turku, covering the basics in two years. When a visiting Norwegian professor came to lecture, Jonas was both inspired and aware that it was time to move on.
“I see my ceramic work as more of an artistic outlet for myself. It’s more free work, more sculptural, it’s not about function but about expression.”
“I like to stay uninformed about whatever everyone else is doing, create a bubble for myself to feel free in”
He was accepted to Carl Malmsten Furniture Studies and was energised by the renowned school where every aspect of wood as a living material was explored. An exchange to Eindhoven was the next revelation. There he took a class in conceptual design that showed him how “you can push boundaries instead of just designing chairs.” He was drawn to Eindhoven as many of the designers he admired had associations with the city, Hella Jongerius, Piet Heijn Eek, Jurgen Bey.
Despite travelling far from home, Nordic design traditions remain engrained: “I can never escape my Scandinavian style, I accept it, that is who I am”. This tradition, for Jonas, revolves around materials and is firmly rooted in locally sourced natural resources. Jonas worked for Wieki Somers after graduation, by 2016 it was time to focus entirely on his own work. His collection for the Milan Furniture Fair that year marked the birth of his own studio.
Jonas currently works in a light-filled studio in one of the oldest harbours in Rotterdam, a former orphanage now home to international designers. Jonas followed those who inspired him to the Netherlands and is now part of a new generation of designers working out of the city.
For inspiration, he looks inward rather than out; he gravitates toward live music, goes to art shows and sketches endlessly – the aim is “trying to stay open.” Jonas regards working with ÅBEN as an opportunity to create bespoke works, indulge in personal expression and side-step the standardisation demanded by mass production. ÅBEN is the next step in the search for freedom of expression that has defined Jonas Lutz’s career to date.