Domaine de Boisbuchet is a unique, off-the-wall design destination situated in the French countryside. For more than 20 years, Boisbuchet organizes a series of interdisciplinary summer workshops where students and professionals from all over the world come together for a week of experimental work with renowned designers, architects and artists. WantedDesign for the third year partnered with the organization and with the French Airline company XL Airways to offer the opportunity for US design students to take part in a Boisbuchet’s Summer Workshop.
Malia Thomas, Senior Student in Product Design at the University of Oregon, had a chance to participate last May at WantedDesign Brooklyn and was the winner of a one week workshop in Boisbuchet. Passionate about wood, she attended the workshop Mass Production Workshop conducted by designer Philippe Malouin.
Learn more about this talented and passionate young designer and her experience at Boisbuchet.
Can you give us a quick background about yourself and your path until now?
My name is Malia Thomas and currently, I’m a BFA Student at the University of Oregon. I am from Portland, Or, United States. Growing up as a child, I always knew I loved to create and make things. My family quickly realized my fascination and began teaching me how to sew, paint, build small wooden projects and many other things. In Middle School, I took a few classes in engineering. I learned about lego robotic’s, renewable energy turbines, and started learning CAD. In High School, I was involved with a program for three years called Nike Product Creation Experience (NPCE) where I learned about soft good/footwear design, branding, and marketing.
Through my four years of school, I quickly became interested in Furniture, Home, and Environment Design. To me, there is something very special about designing the objects that we put in our home. These objects are more intimate because we live and coexist and occupy the same same as one another.
Why did you apply to the Boisbuchet + WantedDesign contest and what was your expectation in going there?
During New York Design Week ‘19, I was giving the opportunity to exhibit some of my work through my school at Wanted Design. I applied for the competition because I really wanted to leave my country and meet designers from all over the world. I wanted to learn from the amazing designers Boisbuchet brings to teach their workshops. I had a strong feeling that this was an opportunity I needed and I couldn’t believe I was chosen. I was very shy about going in because my workshop was a competition.
Can you describe in a few lines the workshop you were part of? The setup, the process, and the project you achieved?
I participated in the Mass Production Workshop lead by Designer Philippe Malouin. The workshop focused on design an object made of plywood and producing it locally at Boisbuchet. We used standard plywood and laminated wood veneers for compound forms. We started the workshop on the very first day learning about plywood and did some testing with the material. We also began ideation and were given a side challenge to design and create a shoe made of plywood. On day two we created cardboard mockups of our objects and finalized our designs. For my project, I wanted to create a basket by bending plywood with kerf cuts, a technique used to bend standard plywood. In the next couple of days, everyone started working to begin building their design object. Through my process, I had to make numerous changes to achieve my basket form. On the last day of the workshop, we had a walk through an exhibition where all the staff and participants got to come to learn and see the work we had produced in just a few days. I not only was able to finish my basket design but my shoe as well. I got second place in the competition.
What inspired you the most there?
Boisbuchet is one of the most beautiful places I have been to, and it reminded me a lot like my home. I was really inspired by French architecture and french living in the countryside. I wanted to create a home object, a basket, that used a modern technique like kerf cutting to coexist with the living quarters at boisbuchet and I think I did.
What is your dream project or career?
Even when I was a young girl, I always knew that I wanted to create things that would make people happy and enhance their lives. Oddly enough, I became curious about spaces, especially buildings and homes, and the relationship that they have with us, the people. I would stare at them and wonder how these spaces made people feel. Today, I am still following that curiosity and I want to be a creator, inventor, and designer and create products that bring joy to the lives of people. In university, I discovered a passion that I had for home accessories and furniture. Home is where the heart is. It is where we relax and cleanse our soul after a long day of work. It is where we eat our favorite meals with the people we love most. The home is also where we are able to release our sadness or grief in comfort. Sometimes we only see one or two homes in our lifetimes or sometimes we call many places home. The home is a very special place to me and as a designer, I want to design the objects that go into that space. People choose the objects they want in their home because it makes them happy and excites them. These objects can bring them comfort or a sense of stability. Some of the products they chose, bring them efficiency. Whether it’s a dining set, lounge chair, or floor mat, I want to design objects that fill the client’s heart.