Gazzetta di Ciao - Stefan Leo
An afternoon at Atelier Stefan Leo

Stefan Leo has made a name for himself as creator of unique furniture. Stefan is working for clients around the globe. His objects can be found in DIOR boutiques all over the world. In Berlin Stefan has significantly contributed to the design of the DIOR flagship store.
We are sitting down with Stefan Leo to speak about surfing and creating, and find out, what one has to do with the other.
Here we go...

Stefan, we know each other for quite some time now, and in recent years you went through an incredible professional development. Can you tell us exactly what it is that you are doing?
Very good question. That is actually kind of hard to say. Here in Germany we don’t really have a word for it. I am not a designer in the classical sense, no drawing board mastermind, that kind of stuff. But I am not a craftsman either. I really like the French concept of le créateur because that is what we do. My team and I, we create. We find new approaches to rather familiar objects, and often in random and chaotic processes. In our very own way we integrate all kinds of crafts and disciplines. We create new combinations in forms and surfaces and a large part of our work is hands-on experiments and is based on random chance.
My role in the team is the puppeteer if you wish. The one who brings together things that had not been there before. The one who writes the script on the go. The one who spots the gold in a pile of chaotic experiments and who makes the story evolve around it.  Puppeteer, real time storyteller, director, alchemist. - Créateur. It’s a wonderful job.

And you are really successful with it. So what is it that you are doing right? What do your clients love about you?

Firstly it is our product language which is pretty unique. We are working fully across the board integrating all kinds of crafts and materials and then some.  Be it bronze, leather, steel, glass etc etc - and/or the combination of all. That is quite unique. I do not know many other studios working in this way. 

Then personally, and I think that has to do largely with my passion for surfing, I am not really afraid of much. I tackle the waves as they come and then go with it. There is a playfulness in my work and there is the lightness of being within myself. And somehow together this stimulates the collaboration with my clients.   

Stefan, what inspires you?
All aspects of life. Random stuff and encounters. The wind, the sea. The surfboards. The longboards. My family.

Surface vs substance?
Naturally the surface for me is among the most intriguing / exciting parts of an object. It is what you meets first. It is what meets the eye. It is the main player of an object. Even if the surface is subtle and toned down, it still speaks to you, it whispers and it pulls you closer so that you can hear what is said. The surface calls for your attention, it is the interface between you and the creation, it is what reaches you first. It is what draws you into a conversation.
In our product language we love to aim for subtle irritations, tensions on the surface, ambiguities and oscillation.  Playing with irritations, creating desire, making a hand reach out and want to touch. . It is what causes the attention, creates desire, ambiguities and oscillation, lets your hand reach out.
That is a pretty cool thing. And this is what fascinates me to the core and what drives me:
The creation of exciting, tormenting, tantalizing surfaces; and then to find the shapes and forms that correspond with them in a completely natural, effortless and almost classical way. Taming the chaos. Creating balanced beauty in balance. It is an extremely thin line to walk – an extremely sharp wave to ride -  but if you go out there and do it, it is also unbelievably rewarding.

What is style for you?
Style is a very personal thing that can not be generalized or transferred to a third person.
It is the ability to create maximum authenticity with minimal means.

Is there a magic in “handmade”?
We are living in days where handcraft has become pretty rare. And it is the whole anachronism of it, it comes from one hand, you can touch it too, it does not have much to do with scalability… Handmade objects take the speed out of our crazy times. We can touch them. We can meditate over them. They bring us in contact with ourselves, and therefore they are a luxury good.

What surface does life have?
Life has the surface of North Sea in autumn with the wind turning from north to north west.

What are you riding?
My skateboards, a pickup, a Citroen Mehari.

Hello, Goodbye or Ciao?