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Making familiar objects art

Sunday, December 9, 2012
Peera, designed by Marlon Darbeau.


Marlon Darbeau will exhibit three design projects at More Than Just a Place to Sit, which opens on December 11 in Belmont. Darbeau is a designer and creative director of Abovegroup Ogilvy, a full-service communications company. He has spent the last few years broadening and deepening his creative practice, transcending the boundaries of image and text layouts for print publications to design objects made with wood, stainless steel and aluminium. Though a number of the objects in the show have been featured online, Darbeau says, “The exhibit will allow people to engage on a personal level with the objects.”
One of his design projects, Peera, gives tangible significance to the name of the exhibition for it is a design that literally offers more than just a place to sit. Peera serves a dual purpose: as both bench and a vehicle for carrying tools or other items. It is an imaginative reinterpretation of a familiar object. “The project started out about making a bench. My dad had a workshop in which he used a bench to paint the mailboxes he made. I wanted to investigate how to translate that object. There is a generation that knows the object but does not really know it,” says Darbeau.
What is more commonly spelt as peerha or peerah is a small, low bench that remains a present but perhaps inconspicuous part of our landscape. The bench is used in a number of contexts including sitting and cooking by the fireside. It can also be a featured sitting place for the bride and groom in Hindu weddings. “I wanted to present Peera almost as an object no one has seen before. I wanted to create a surprise. I wanted to make the object persuasive and desirable. We consume so much of what is imported. Perhaps because we think it’s nicer. I asked: what does an object designed and made in Trinidad look like? Early feedback from people included comments that Peera looked so factory-made. We don’t say that about a Nokia or a watch. I want to heighten what we expect from what is designed and made here.”
Along with the double-function unit, the Peera project includes two other objects: a love seat or what Darbeau calls “a stretched Peera” and a single seat. Other objects to be exhibited are Dish Out, a set of salad servers, and Outin, a garden bench. 
This is the first time all of the work will be displayed in Trinidad. A Peera prototype has been shown at the Global Africa Project exhibit at the Museum of Art and Design in New York and preliminary models of Dish Out have been presented at the Design Caribbean trade fair in the Dominican Republic. Audiences in Trinidad can expect to see a resolution of Darbeau’s ideas in his presentation of finished pieces.
Darbeau’s products are branded By Making. “It is brand and a philosophy,” says Darbeau. “By Making talks about my process. Design is by making. Ideas only come to tangible form by the difficult process of making,” he adds. 
Darbeau articulates the practice of making as a means of thinking and problem solving. It is in the doing, or making, that new creative paths open up for exploration and ideas can be resolved. Darbeau’s signature appears next to his brand name. “That means they are one and the same. The work is an extension of me. I am giving myself to it,” he explains.
By putting himself into his work, Darbeau injects a human dimension into his designs. He creates with people in mind, considering how people experience consumer products. He believes that this consciousness of humanity is what makes each of his designs a work of art. 
“I am a designer but there is an art to what I do. Design as a service mechanism can lead to a consciousness that does not consider people, so there is no art to the object. My objective might be to make something available but I hope that in making something available, people will see that a lot has been considered,” says Darbeau. 
It is his attention to considering how people will feel and interact with his designs that makes Marlon Darbeau’s benches more than just places to sit and his salad servers more than just spoons.
More Than Just a Place to Sit opens on December 11 from 7 pm at Granderson Lab, 24 Erthig Road, Belmont, and will run until December 15; gallery hours are Wednesday to Friday noon-6 pm and Saturday 11 am-6 pm. • For more information about Marlon Darbeau, visit



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