Childhood memories—the playfulness, the imaginations running free, and the ability to discover new stories in every nook and cranny—are often a haven of respite, confronting us with what is lost in the pursuit of growing up. When retracing those years of juvenility, one encounters ignorance (and the ensuing bliss), soaring ingenuity—plausibly an entire universe built on its wings—and, unquestionably, toys! A host of childhood favourites, that push the nostalgia button include Lego, Nintendo, Hot Wheels, The Tamagotchi and so many more became a merchandising icons nearly upon release. The beloved objects are all natives of a clandestine fictitious universe puppeteered by tiny humans. What if this charming toy, now sullied by the pragmatism that escorts adulthood, permeates the mundane and enchants a seemingly disenchanted world?
Rotterdam-based Supertoys Supertoys, helmed by Dutch-German art duo Merle Flügge and Job Mouwen, is fueled by their quest for what they like to call "radical cuteness." With an extensive repository of limited edition collectable objects, art furniture and light sculptures, the duo is known for their whimsical, playful and joyful objects, cleverly employing a variety of digital design and fabrication methods. Taking a hybrid between flowers and animals as a conceptual starting point, the designers craft the Flower collection, a series of furniture designs, lighting designs, and sculptural objects that aim to radiate joy and fill spaces with positivity. “We imagined a parallel world where these playful cute flowers live in groups, always looking at the sun and following the sun just like sunflowers here. These flowers are happy creatures, they bring happiness and joy into your home,” the duo share.
For Supertoys Supertoys, the concept of 'radical cuteness’ entails a reconnection to our playful childhood, a magical imagination where every object and every encounter is filled with stories. An impetus for their practice was also discovered in the oeuvre of artists who spearheaded Italian Radical Design from the 1960s and 1970s, (re)introducing emotion in product design and turning furniture into domestic sculptural art. An object that's an element of fun and engagement, agitating the mundane life that's often on autopilot. A childlike daydream wraps itself around the beholder like a warm blanket, embroidered with fine threads of melancholy and nostalgia. “We feel that the world is kind of tough and rough, opposite of what we are and what we want the world to look like so we need something radical to turn things around,” the designers share. “That is why there is also a melancholic edge to our work, it is a time seemingly lost or replaced,” they add.
The designers’ inspiration for the ensemble is vested in “sunflowers and cute happy animals like bunnies or quokkas,” a fairly simple conjecture when one lays eyes on the perceptibly lovable silhouettes that partake in it. While the Flower furniture—table designs, chair designs, and sculptural objects—emulates the infallible ecstasy their muse emanates, the Flower Lights are tiny beings who chase their little pink sun on a faraway planet—playing, walking and looking up from time to time during the day, absorbing her warm pink rays. They steal one final glance due west as the sky flaunts deep pink hues; at night, the lights sit together until dawn, facing east in blissful anticipation as their little sun rises. Shedding light on what drives them, the duo share, “A lot of things, everyday things, stories, but mostly things which are hybrid or vulnerable and cute. Lately, we’ve been obsessed with flowers and thinking about a world full of flower-beings in a parallel universe."
Diving into their creative process, the aspect of intuitiveness is observed to be prominent. Working in the digital space allows the designers the leeway to use whatever forms or shapes they choose to build a parallel dream world. Undeterred by specific materials or production limitations, they achieve the desired expression through round, soft forms that evoke calmness and joy simultaneously. Their inclination towards weaving stories or cute moments takes up notable space in the design process, either at the beginning or the end. “For example with our recently released Peek-A-Boo Table we really thought of these little creatures from another dimension playing hide and seek in our living room. Something they’re not really good at as you can see, but luckily most people just play along,” the product designers conclude.
The world of collectable art toys is where Supertoys Supertoys find a niche, not only because it really connects to what the practice exemplifies but also because the artists and collectors share with the creators a passion for these objects. The art duo works between the digital and the physical world, using virtual reality to sculpt the objects by hand. Imagining worlds beyond our world, the boundaries between digital and physical space blur, illustrating their animist point of view that everything is connected to everything and imagination is perhaps just another reality. Capturing a bygone era, Flügge and Mouwen continue to strive to bring back a world full of otherworldly, yet strangely familiar objects—conceiving objects so radically cute that they disrupt everyday life, leaving you to wonder whether it is reality or imagination.