Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The designer

Edu: playful designs with green aims. 

Edu, short for Catalin-Andrei Edu, is a 20-something designer and sculptor from Pietrosita, a pretty mountain village at the eastern end of the southern arm of the Carpathian Mountains, about 115 km from Bucharest.  

He came to the UK as a student and is now designing toys.  He is passionate about his work.  Many of his latest inventions are models of animals and cars, but all are lively, witty, simple, and clean-lined.  Edu attributes his love of simple shapes to his admiration for the Romanian sculptor, Constantin Brancusi (1874-1957), whose deceptively naive style has inspired thousands of artists - and non-artists - to search for the same thing, which amounts to an essence of form, the nub of the matter, without frills but enormous fun.  

Brancusi believed that the most creative ideas come from children; he even said that once we stop thinking like children we might as well be dead.  He wasn't alone in this conviction: Arthur Koestler put his faith in the concept of homo ludens, playful man, and Romania can boast of many other free thinkers who left conventions behind in order to find new ways of interpreting the world.  In the fields of visual art and literature there are the Dadaists and Ionescu, and in science, the aviation expert Henri Coanda, but there are many, many others, and Edu fits perfectly into this mould.  

Five years ago he won a scholarship to the School of Arts and Designs in Coventry, where he graduated in 2012.  Before that, he studied computer programming in Bucharest at which time he worked on a team project for NASA.  That experience told Edu that he far preferred graphics and 3-D design to writing software.  In Coventry, he concentrated on consumer product design, and won a competition in his third year which led to an internship sponsored by the Erasmus Foundation.  He went to a toy design company in Como where he stayed for six months and found himself creating playthings for China and Germany.  

Edu has found his feet by inventing toys.   'It's an unexploited part of the design world'.  It also gives him the chance to work with natural and recycled materials.  

'They aren't always ecofriendly', he says of his designs, 'but it's a bonus [when they are], even if they are a bit more costly.'  He points me to an Italian website he's been contributing to called idkid: the toys shown there are nothing like the tacky, garish horrors you find in doctors' surgeries and hospitals, but simpler, more elegant, calmer and made out of kinder materials: much more exciting to look at and handle - what good design should be.   

'My dream is to leave something good behind me.'  In 2012, he took part in the New Designers exhibition at the London based Design Museum and in December that year, Pro tv's news programme included him in a day of special 'good news' reports for Romania's National Day.  In the meantime, he has not always had work, and the work he has found has not always been to his taste.  So to keep himself occupied, Edu is training to be a special constable with the Metropolitan Police Force.  

Edu says he would like to go home to Romania but the opportunities are just not there: 'I can't meet enough people there, it's too isolated'.  

Apart from designing toys professionally, he likes to play around with sculpture.  Another artist he admires is Christophe Gordon Brown who lives in Cambridge.  This sculptor's work is quite simple and abstract, showing an affinity with Brancusi's.  

I asked Edu if he's been troubled by the recent wave of anti-Romanian feelings in our press.  

'I've never felt any adverse pressure', he replied, 'the professionals I've worked with didn't care that I was Romanian.'  But he added, 'Many Romanians come to London and some are a little bit dodgy.  We (Romanians) are used to them; we have learnt how to keep our guard up all the time, but you in Britain are not.  I understand the concerns.  [Here in Coventry and London] I found quite a lot of Indian people so I didn't realise why other foreigners would be a threat.  I feel quite neutral about this problem because I haven't been impacted [by it].'

When the Revolution happened he was just two.  His parents moved to Constanta, on the Black Sea coast, when he was five.  He learnt English from watching American films on tv.  

Edu belongs to the generation that should have escaped all that tragedy, aiming for a much better future.  It seems to me, he is a pretty shining example of the energy, imagination and decent principles that you'd want from the new brood.  If, like all the other talented youngsters around, he can get the chance to prove and establish himself.   

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