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During the Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam graduation show, stumbled upon the work of Suzanne van Beest. Her tactile accessories are based upon nature, the octopus to be exact. 

By Cassandra Pizzey / 09-08-2013

We spoke to the designer about her work. 

Wonderpus is the name of your graduation work, could you tell us about the accessories?

“The accessories are based on the unique characteristics of the octopus and are the result of a form study into the movements and behaviours of this animal. Just like an octopus, the accessories can change their shape and appearance to suit the moment.”


Van Beest uses various techniques in her body jewellery, there are inflatable pieces which can be worn flat on the skin, inflated to twice the size or even pulsating. The pieces can be worn with a shiny finish, or powdered with a specially-designed compact and with a more subtle finish. Also, there are pieces which change colour by pumping ink through coloured tubes. 


What is it about the animal world that interests you, and why the octopus especially?


“I’m fascinated by the way animals can solve problems, so much smarter and more elegant than us. During my graduation year I asked myself what designers could learn from animals and tried to translate this into a product. 


The octopus quickly became my favourite animal because of all its amazing attributes. It’s skin is comparable to a screen with R,G and B pigments allowing them to change colour in a flash.” 

Why did you decide to focus on accessories?

“The way the octopus moves and its elegance made me want to make something ‘living’ than could be worn on the skin. Also, the octopus is an animal that expresses itself by changing its appearance. This expressive aspect led me to the idea of accessories for the body.”

You work with some rather unusual materials for accessories, why these in particular?

“I worked with a special type of silicone rubber. After the first experiment with this material I knew it was perfect for my project. It has a great feel, can be worn shiny of matte and has a certain kind of ‘octopus’ feel. My final prototypes have been made hollow so that air can be pumped in and they change shape.

Why did you choose to study at the Willem de Kooning Academy and what did you like best about this school?

“The overall atmosphere at the academy is very free. All different disciplines seem to merge leaving a great blend of different people and different interests. Also the facilities are of a high standard and most of the teachers
are also designers who work in the professional sector.”

Can you tell us about your plans for the future?

“I found a job at a pharmaceuticals company where I will be designing new packaging and displays for their products. In my free time I want to keep working on new products. I still have a lot of ideas which I would love to develop and sell on my own website and maybe other places in the future.”