In the industrial area of Piraeus, Athens, is their production workshop: an 800-square-metre factory producing design objects made of resin. They are Eleni Petaloti and Leonidas Trampoukis, together Objects of Common Interest. The duo, based in New York since 2016, maintains an active studio in Greece, birthplace for both of them, which has recently been joined by a production space.
It all started many years ago, when Eleni, still working in the art world, met Ovidiu Colea, a Romanian artisan who ran a workshop on Long Island dedicated to the production of resin objects. Ovidiu then produced objects on commission from artists, and small reproductions of the Statue of Liberty that tourists raved about. Over the years, the man had come up with innovative and secret recipes, developing techniques that had never been used before.
“Since Ovidiu was nearing retirement and his sons would not take over his business,” Petaloti explains, in 2022, “we took Colea’s laboratory and transported it to Piraeus, an area of Athens that used to be home to many factories.” This move gave the Objects of Common Interest the possibility to control their production, and maximum freedom to experiment.
Eleni and Leonidas met in Greece, back in their university days (although, surprisingly, they grew up five minutes apart), only two years before moving to New York together, and the dream of returning to their homeland to give back what they had learned elsewhere was an idea that always animated their imaginations.
The first project to come out of the Piraeus factory was Chronos, an installation curated by Milan-based studio Mr.Lawrence for the latest edition of Design Miami in December 2022. Inspired by the concept of time, it consisted of three new resin lighting designs: the Polymorph Cast Aluminum lounge chair and two Metamorphic Rocks, a low seat on wheels, reminiscent of the organic shapes of a rock.
To complete this dreamlike landscape, there were two Tube lights, a project from 2019, which has since been incorporated into many of their projects, not least the large public installation Light On, conceived for Piazza della Libertà in Bergamo, as the winner of an international competition for the symbolic installation of the Italian Capital of Culture 2023, curated by Federica Sala. The intervention on the imposing fascist-era Casa della Libertà consists of a serpentine light installation to connect the public to the building, and equipped the square with public seating made of marble cutouts.
“Public installations have the power to transform, even for their short duration when temporary, everyday life on many levels, beyond the initial aesthetic perception,” the designers explain. “They disrupt known norms and established habits, they challenge preconceptions of a place that has been familiar for years or decades, as in the case of Piazza de la Libertà in Bergamo”. “With each public installation we add a pool of ideas that builds our collective experience for future projects. The one in Bergamo is the largest and longest we have made to date and is a continuous and active source of inspiration and information for us as designers in relation to the reaction of the people who interact with it.”
Translucency is another hallmark of the work of the two designers, former winners of the Wallpaper* Design Awards and judges of 2023. The Poikilos exhibition, curated by Studio Vedèt for the gigantic atrium of the Nilufar Depot last April, during the last edition of the , also revolved around this ingredient. It is a collection of resin objects characterised by an unprecedented iridescence, a visual effect of rare and simple beauty made possible thanks to one of Ovidiu’s recipes, created in his Long Island City workshop, and passed down to Objects of Common Interest.
In its liquid form, this potion of opalescence is poured into moulds and once solid is treated by hand in the same way one treats natural materials such as iron, marble or wood. This approach, unique in the field of resin, avoids the more classical processing where squared blocks are cut and shaped using, for example, CNC-controlled machines.