4 lessons in creativity from design master Kenneth Cobonpue

Iñigo De Paula
4 lessons in creativity from design master Kenneth Cobonpue
Kenneth talks about the importance of hard work and how inspiration can strike anytime

MANILA, Philippines – Kenneth Cobonpue is one of the country’s most successful furniture designers. His works, which merge natural motifs and traditional craftsmanship with modern features, have been shown in design capitals such as Milan and New York. The Cebu native is the recipient of numerous accolades, including the French Coup de Coeur award. In 2007, TIME magazine proclaimed Kenneth to be “rattan’s first virtuoso.”

Last October 12, Kenneth and the Bank of the Philippine Islands offered exclusive discounts to BPI credit cardholders on his new and iconic pieces. It was a rare opportunity, as Cobonpue pieces are seldom offered at a discount.  

Kenneth Cobonpue with the people of BPI during the announcement of the tie-up. BPI allows Filipinos the opportunity to owe a Kenneth Cobonpue piece through installment. All photos courtesy of BPI

The launch also gave us the chance sit down with Kenneth and pick his brains about his design and creative process. “Designing, to me, is like an extension of my childhood,” he says. “Everything is just a figment of my fantasy, of my imagination.” These carefree daydreams enabled Kenneth to push the design envelope further, and build a flourishing business.

By talking about his process, Kenneth also gave 4 pieces of advice that are applicable to creative individuals of any discipline.

1. Don’t ignore the mundane 

As a creative professional, Kenneth knows that inspiration can come from just about anywhere. “There’s really no monopoly when it comes to inspiration,” he says.  “I can be inspired by anything, (even something) as mundane as bread… or cracks on the wall.”

“Sometimes I’d be walking somewhere,” he adds. “And then just think ‘Yeah, why not try this (idea)?’ and begin to sketch.” His openness to trying new things is evident in the sense of whimsy that many of his works possess.

2. Hard work beats inspiration

Another thing Kenneth knows as a creative professional is that inspiration is fickle and unreliable. “Those (inspired moments) are very rare,” he says. “Because you always have to be in the right mood. If I got that down to a formula, my life would be easier.”

With a busy schedule and deadlines constantly looming, he can’t afford to wait for the muse. For him, the creative process boils down to hard work.  “This is when I sit down and say, ‘Okay, I need to come up with a design’,” he says. “There’s a show coming, and then I work on it.”

3. “Listen” to your materials and space

For Kenneth, the medium can often influence the final design. “Sometimes I design starting with a material that’s unique, or has a different weave,” he says. “So I try to look at a material that’s beautiful, and decide ‘What shape should it be? What should it become?”’

Space also plays a big part in his creative process. “When I design something for a particular space and I look at that space and ask ‘What is it telling me to do?’” he says. By focusing on material and space, Kenneth has created pieces that both stand out and complement the room they are placed in.

4. Good design is timeless

Design trends come and go. These days, it’s all about minimalism. Kenneth’s works stand in stark contrast to the geometric outlines of most modern furniture. With their organic silhouettes and exotic materials, Kenneth’s pieces are assertive and memorable. “If I were to make a brand, if I were to make a story in the world of design I would rather shout out,” he proclaims. “I would rather be the diva in the space rather than the quiet one.”

Kenneth’s devotion to assertive design gives his furniture a sense of timelessness. “It can be timeless. Fabric, colors of the cushion… those are thing that change over time. But the form should be timeless. That’s good design” he says.  – Rappler.com

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