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Nika Zupanc Homework Tablets

The young Slovenian designer Nika Zupanc is otherwise known as the designer of the cherries. We meet under her iconic cherry-shaped lights, the Black Cherry lamps (black, obviously, but also available in red and white). We are in Ljubljana, the capital of the young republic in ex-Yugoslavia (twenty years "old" last year).

Here, Zupanc has just "redesigned" As, a restaurant and lounge bar in the heart of the city. As we meet amid the furniture she has designed and the Black Cherry lamps, Zupanc is bright, smiling and attractive (in fact she is often the "testimonial" for her design, photographed with her work, perhaps at one of her much-loved lakes in the mountains as was the case with the recent Bubble Lamps ), she is wearing jeans and carrying a bag by another young and famous Slovenian designer, Lara Bohinc , who now lives in London. "Of course we know each other" says Zupanc, "I'm happy to carry her bags and necklaces because they look like me".

Lisa Corva: Why a cherry lamp?
Nika Zupanc: I got the inspiration from a song I kept listening to, Black Cherry by Goldfrapp. I started from there to create pieces that were functional and modular — the cherries have been designed for 1, 2 and 3 lights — but filled with poetry".

One of Zupanc's first objects was Unfaithful, a feather duster that looks like a jewel (it could almost be part of the soft-porn paraphernalia belonging to Mr Grey, the protagonist of Fifty Shades of Grey). I ask if she has read it and Nika laughs, though she does make a note of the title on her iPhone (coincidentally, the novel is written by a woman, and passed on from one woman to another).
The feather duster is one of the first objects I designed, along with the Maid Chair , that I presented at the Salone Satellite in 2007, Marcel Wanders and Moroso really liked it. Wanders wanted to produce it for Moooi but we had to abandon it because it was too expensive. It was there that he told me, looking at the lace decoration — that I took up in the Lolita lamp — that this was in my DNA.

What did Wanders mean?
He meant that taking elements that are extremely feminine, almost clichés — lace, bows, hearts — and using them in a way that is almost masculine. It is one of my possible alphabets, one kind of handwriting.

Ljubljana is a city of architects. The genius loci of the city is Jože Plecnik, who also founded the first university of architecture and from the 1930s onwards designed bridges, churches, libraries as well as street furniture, chairs and lamps. Have you ever been inspired by anything by him?
No, but it's true that Ljubljana is a city of architects: I married one (laughs). My inspiration though if anything is from the 1980s, the artistic group Neue Slowenische Kunst , it was a great time to live in Ljubljana, I was a little girl, too young to take part but I took in that atmosphere.

Taking elements that are extremely feminine, almost clichés — lace, bows, hearts — and using them in a way that is almost masculine: it is one of my possible alphabets, one kind of handwriting

So is there some nostalgia, maybe even "ostalgie"? Nostalgia for a certain kind of socialism, glamorous socialism?
Maybe. But nostalgia revisited. Like when in Plecnik's pavilion at Villa Bled, on Lake Bled — about an hours from here, a wonderfully retro place, it was Tito's residence — one afternoon sitting with a cup in my hand, I imagined chairs that recounted the ritual of tea and the passing of time. The 5 o'clock collection was born, covered in roses, for Moooi.

Is that place you love most here in Ljubljana?
It is right outside the city centre, in the forests of Šmarna Gora, about ten minutes away, I go and walk there every day. I check the exact time of the sunset on my iPhone so I can be there when the light changes, in time for the last rays of sun, my perfect moment of inspiration.

Your latest design?
The Bubble Lamps that I presented at the last Salone del Mobile, at the Rossana Orlandi space. In pink glass because I wanted to recreate the poetic light of the lamps on the canals of Venice, a city I love. The lamps were born there, apart from anything else, in the Vistosi foundry, born where I dreamed of them.

Nika Zupanc is in fact much appreciated by Rossana Orlandi, the petite "grande dame" of Italian design. Orlandi presented Zupanc's latest work at her via Matteo Bandello, Milan store and took Zupanc's Homework table to her shop in Porto Cervo. The Black Cherry Lamps are also in the Silent Revolutions itinerant exhibition promoted by Ljubljana's Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO). There are displayed, alongside the cherries, two cult objects of Slovenian design, also present in the MoMA collection in New York: Davorin Savnik's 1979 IKSTRA telephone, and Niko Kralj's 1956 Rex chair . There is also jewellery by Lara Bohinc. Socialism yes, but glamorous. Lisa Corva

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