As a child growing up in the countryside in Germany, Sebastian Herkner was always tinkering in the garage, building things with his hands. Being a designer was his dream for as long as he can remember. After studying product design at the Offenbach University of Art and Design, and a short experience at Stella McCartney’s London studio, he opened his own company close to Frankfurt in 2006. His award-winning pieces of furniture reflect his creative approach: “It’s important to be openminded, to absorb everything, and then to use instinct to transform inspiration into something truly unique.” Protective of traditional crafts, he especially treasures those that run the risk of being forgotten. For him, “craft is beauty connected with places, territory, culture, people. We need to safeguard both the artisans and their work in order to protect our heritage.” In 2019, he was nominated Maison & Objet Designer of the Year.How does craftsmanship feature in your life?
Since the beginning of my career, I have focused on real materials and local production. I like to meet artisans and love having dialogue with them. My neighborhood of Offenbach was famous for its production of leather goods, but all the producers closed over the years so the city and region lost its typical identity. It is the people that shape a community.Do you work with craftspeople?
They are crucial partners. I have an initial idea and craftspeople are the ones who bring it to life. They are the ones translating my sketching in something tangible. They are my heroes.Do you have any stories about your encounters with artisans?
Every single workshop in Italy or Colombia, Japan or Taiwan is unique. I know 20 different glassblowers who all work differently and with their own approach and specialty. Design is about using senses and communication. I want to feel the heat next to the furnace, smell the wood or metal in the workshop. I want to talk to a person, not to a robot.How would you define excellence?
Excellence is a certain level. Craft is the mastery of a task with lots of passion, knowledge, strength and patience. We all need to understand and respect the fact that handcrafted products require time.