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PAPER AND ARABIAN INSPIRATION

Paper as a bridge between idea and form. Simple constructions and ­Arabian mosques. Amanda Betz is a hybrid between Nordic functionalism and exotic pattern magic.

By Charlotte Jul

Amanda Betz has taught herself the art of paper folding. Origami, to use another term. Well enough to suit her purpose. Enough to know how she can best use the method in her work. A trained architect, Amanda is interested in scales and light. How scale can shape a product. How filtered light can form patterns. Betz takes a classic approach to her profession, although her expression is anything but traditional. She begins with an idea and drafts it on paper, which she then folds to allow the three-dimensional form to reveal the idea, twist it in a different direction or hit it straight on. ‘I have always used paper as a process tool, because it felt like pure magic to go from a flat drawing to a spatial object. My courses at the architecture school were strongly influenced by the futuristic 1960s avant-garde movement Archigram with its intense focus on future and technology with a social agenda. That taught me a lot, but eventually I came to miss working with products that weren’t conceptual, and which also incorporated aesthetic qualities.’

Since then, paper has been the designer’s experimental material. Paper, which she folds, interprets and cuts across its history and conventional use. A dedicated innovation effort that so far has transformed Amanda’s work into three commercial industrial products with paper as their common reference.

For the Danish Crafts Collection, Amanda Betz has replaced the paper with brass to create a trio of lamps. Three cylinders, all with a delicate filigree pattern as their core feature. Intricate and highly ornamented patterns with inspiration from the Arabian tradition. A contrast-rich dialogue between the simple metal form and the multi-facetted patterns that are etched into the metal. ‘In the paper models I pushed the laser cutter to the edge of its capacity to create that pattern. The lines simply cannot be any closer together – lest the material catch fire. But for me, this is exactly where the challenge lies: in fusing technology with an artistic and aesthetic expression.’

Conceptually, Amanda Betz’s lamps began with an idea for a room divider that would simultaneously shield the light and let it in. Offering a peek out as well as a peek in – but once she saw the realisation of the idea, it was clear that the metal wanted to go in a different direction. It contorted, and gradually, the idea of a lamp emerged. ‘The reflection process is very important for me. Because the material is always smarter than you are. Even though I have my paper models, and I sense the product, I am constantly surprised by how much say the material has.’ ‘Column’ is the name of Amanda Betz’s floor lamps, which have a direct visual reference to her architectural background, like a miniature template for a column, an urban space, a building.

The light is filtered through the many perforation patterns of the shade, creating a moiré effect that produces an intimate ambience. ’The lamp has an inner light rather than creating shadows, which is quite intentional, because I aimed for a design that evokes an emotional response. Today, detailing and ornamentation are often neglected in favour of function, but why? That’s why I went in the opposite direction,’ says the lighting designer, who took a big step outside her own comfort zone in her latest exhibition project: a simple circular wall-mounted lamp in solid ash wood with a skin-coloured silk shade, suspended inside the frame like the skin of a drum. Two layers of silk are placed on top each other at an angle, the threads in the weave forming a delicate pattern that creates a moiré effect, whether the light is on or off.

Amanda Betz is a multi-facetted designer. She celebrates architectural stringency but is passionate about ornamentation and emotions. She has a lightning-quick mind but pursues a slow feel in her work. In her designs she brings a refined element to a sometimes brusque and masculine material universe. Turns paper into magic and a source of energy in her work. Mixes the simple codes of geometry with feminine strength and complexity.