OOSTERNIJKERK, the Netherlands — Thomas Eyck’s private showroom is in a restored 18th-century barn next to a potato field on the outskirts of this Friesian village. Although the setting is calm, the design producer is often on the go, popping out of his seat and grabbing objects to illuminate his points to a visitor.
“Here are some of the sketches Aldo made for our copper series in 2010,” Mr. Eyck, 53, said, enthusiastically fanning through a batch of drawings by the Dutch designer Aldo Bakker that he had taken from a drawer. “Look at these forms. So fresh.”
Next, he returned with the 2012 book “Color Based on Nature,” by Irma Boom, part of a project that also included seven wallpaper designs. “See, each one is based on colors from a Unesco site,” he said, as he slid a finger along a perforated page to reveal a pattern.
Minutes later, Mr. Eyck (pronounced IKE) displayed a light bulb hanging from some corded flax. It had been designed by Christien Meindertsma as part of the Flax Project in 2009.
“See this knot?” he said, framing the bump with his hands. “The rope maker, Albert, had a different knot, but Christien didn’t like it. So she took the rope home over the weekend and called me on Sunday and said, ‘Thomas, I found a way to make the knot.’ Monday, we went back to Albert, who changed the knot he’d been making for decades. All of that, the materials, the people, the story — that makes a really nice project for me.”
In 2007, Mr. Eyck founded a contemporary design label called t.e., using his own initials.
Now, he approaches one or two designers each year to create a product line based on a material (for instance: glass, leather, pewter, wool) or a concept that he usually has chosen.
He pays a flat design fee and royalties for the items he commissions, some of which he sells in limited editions, while others are in continual production. He also sells work that he did not inspire but that he finds inspiring, using his website and the shops and galleries in several countries that carry the t.e. creations.
The designer Guus Kusters, who, with Maarten Kolk, has collaborated frequently with Mr. Eyck in recent years, said the idiosyncratic collection defied definition: “It’s so personal to Thomas that it becomes its own style, and that’s the thing we like about it.”
Mr. Eyck matches projects to designers based on what he calls their “handwriting,” how they approach their craft, their attention to material and meaning, and their production techniques, all of which often require deep research by the artisans.
“All my projects are kind of personal, like working with friends,” Mr. Eyck said. “We don’t have to be friends, but I must be glad when I see them. That’s really, really, really important.”
In return, many designers credit him with bolstering or even beginning their careers, and work bearing the t.e. label now is in the collections of several museums, including the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.
The Flax Project was the first commission that Ms. Meindertsma ever received; now she is generally considered one of the best-known designers in the Netherlands. They have since worked together several times.
“A person like Thomas is really rare in our field,” she said. “He’s super trustworthy, genuinely interested in design and in the making of it, plus he’s interested in making it work financially. That is an unusual combination.”
Mr. Eyck’s respect for craftsmanship comes from the seven years he spent as art director at Koninklijke Tichelaar Makkum, a Dutch heritage ceramics company.
The showroom of Thomas Eyck’s contemporary design label, called t.e., is a restored 18th-century barn adjacent to his home in Oosternijkerk. He regularly collaborates on pieces with artisans and then sells the result. In the foreground is a vase by Studio Wieki Somers, of Rotterdam, the Netherlands.Credit...Herman Wouters for The New York Times
“I watched everything being done — from earth to clay to vase, and I really came to understand the craft part, the time and effort put into objects and why high-quality craft costs so much money to make,” he said.
Mr. Eyck studied architecture and art history in college and had a childhood rooted in art. His parents, Jo and Marlies Eyck, collected contemporary art and now operate a small gallery called Hedge House in Wijlre, a village in the southern Netherlands. His sister runs Andriesse Eyck Galerie, a contemporary art gallery in Amsterdam.
When Mr. Eyck talked with Mr. Bakker about the 2010 copper commission, they discovered their families were connected: Mr. Eyck’s parents had been patrons of Mr. Bakker’s, the designers Gijs Bakker and Emmy van Leersum. (Gijs Bakker was a founder of the famed Droog Design collective.)
“With Thomas, it starts with the creation, not the market,” Aldo Bakker said. “Thomas had the idea for me to do something with copper. He follows his gut feeling about what he thinks has quality, and he’s convinced there will be a market for it. Because he is really interested and involved and motivated, he has a talent with putting people at ease, which is very freeing.”
The result was a sensuous series of everyday objects that included a watering can and mixing bowl, with emphasis on shape and form, and it established Mr. Bakker’s name internationally.
Mr. Eyck has tapped Mr. Bakker for a 2019 commission, details of which he does not want to disclose yet.
“It’s a strange material, not an Aldo material,” he said. “I want to check with the company using it to see if they’re willing to work with us.” He is also commissioning designers to work with a type of biodegradable polystyrene and another project using the concept of sound.
Whatever the material or approach, the results are likely to be forward-thinking.
“Thomas is seen as very innovative with his approach to craft,” said Fredric Baas, a curator at the design-focused Stedelijk Museum ’s-Hertogenbosch. “He seems to know where to look and who to contact, and he has a sense for the zeitgeist.”
Buyers are often interior designers, architects and collectors, many of whom Mr. Eyck meets at design shows like Maison et Objet in Paris and Salone del Mobile in Milan, although he is skipping Milan this year.
Instead, Mr. Eyck plans to stage “Based on Nature,” an exhibition from May 26 through June 16 at his showroom, to feature themed work by designers on his roster.
Mr. Eyck said that since moving with his wife, Reina Weening, from the heart of Amsterdam to the countryside in 2008, the natural world has loomed large as an influence.
Their home, in a restored farmhouse adjacent to the barn and partly decorated with objects from Mr. Eyck’s label, is surrounded by fields, and he often takes a short drive to walk the couple’s Weimaraner, Lulu, along the Wadden Sea.
“What has the most impact for me is when nature and design come together,” he said.
That includes Made by Rain, by Aliki van der Kruijs, a line of textiles and ceramics with patterns made by rainfall, which Mr. Eyck recently started to sell.
As he described their collaboration, he jumped up to fetch one of her deep blue scarves, then draped the fluttering fabric over his arm.
“It almost looks like leopard skin, the way you see the drops and all the different variations,” Mr. Eyck said. “Sometimes, like with this, I see things and I think, ‘My God, this is so good. I have to call the designer to see if we can work together.’”
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