An interview with Stills & Strokes
Melanie, Stefan, how would you describe your work in a few sentences?
- Melanie: First of all, I would say that our work is an unusual mix of photography, graphic design and illustration. Stefan is the photographer and I’m the illustrator and art director.
- Stefan: We enjoy working with patterns and eye-popping colours.
- Melanie: And we like to tell stories. Humour also plays a role in our work. We work with lifestyle products a lot and it’s important to us that we keep finding new ways to showcase such items and integrate them into our worlds.
- Stefan: We actually always try to design three-dimensional objects in combination with backgrounds, and then bring them on a two-dimensional level, which, to a certain degree, is perfectly composed. That’s our aim.
- Melanie: This lets us play with the observer’s perception.
How long have you been working together as Stills & Strokes?
- Melanie: It started out as more of a hobby project, for a relatively long time, actually. I still had a full-time job and Stefan was working as a photographer and photo assistant. We did everything on the side for two years and then it got more and more and now we’re doing it full time.
What are the typical sources of inspiration for your works and installations?
- Melanie: We’re very inspired by American art, especially pop art. And a lot of contemporary art. As our own work is bold and eye-popping, we also love graphic poster art from different decades. And, of course, we’re also definitely inspired by fashion.
You developed three designs for Bikini Berlin’s very own wrapping paper. Can you tell us a bit about each design?
- Stefan: Basically, the designs show gift-wrapping worlds and universes. We created polka dot patterns and stripe patterns that can be seen on the paper, which are then separated by torn paper edges. We added backgrounds to the whole thing to create a sense of three-dimensionality. Making their way through these worlds are parcels wrapped in glossy gold paper, either cylindrical or round.
- Melanie: For our children’s design, we gave the gifts cartoon eyeballs, just like in the campaign. This allowed us to bring the golden little parcels to life.
- Stefan: Exactly! The gifts can make their way through fun worlds and experience their own adventures…
What exactly goes into the creation of these designs?
- Melanie: First, we created the patterns. When we were happy with those, we developed the illustrations. We then printed them out and built a set out of them. Then we built up this ‘paper set’ on a table and set up the camera.
- Stefan: You could say that it’s a sort of temporary installation that we photograph.
- Melanie: Then we added the reflective objects, depending on what story the items should tell. And then at the end we photographed it.
- Stefan: The camera is set up and the set is viewed from a certain perspective. We then move the individual components around until we’re happy and all individual elements match and work well together.
- Melanie: Exactly, it’s teamwork and very precise teamwork at that.
To what extent do these three designs reflect Bikini Berlin?
- Stefan: Bikini Berlin, similar to the pop art we reference, dates back to the 50s and 60s. Of course, we picked up on the Bikini Berlin façade colours in our design, the coral tone for example. And Bikini Berlin is bold enough to take unconventional paths. Perhaps you could say the same about our work.
- Melanie: And the symbol of the circle is another essential part of the design pattern. That was very important to us. And we wanted to incorporate the bronze tones that can be found in Bikini Berlin’s architecture as reflective elements.
Is the type of installation that we’re currently seeing here at Bikini Berlin new terrain for you?
- Melanie: Yes, definitely.
- Stefan: Due to the sheer size alone!
- Melanie: Yes, it’s a lot bigger than anything else we usually create.
- Stefan: When we were planning the photo opportunity we were planning out the sets in the scale that we’re used to and familiar with – but in the full knowledge that it would be enlarged 100-fold later on.
- Melanie: It’s exciting to see how our design works on this enormous scale. And also that a huge audience is seeing our work: we’re usually hidden away in our studio, away from the public. So it’s really great that we can experience the instant reactions of so many people to our work.
What makes Bikini Berlin stand out for you – what do you personally like about it?
- Stefan: Compared to other models, it’s an excitingly unusual concept. The location is ideal and it also has a fantastic, modern image.
- Melanie: I think the mix of stores is very exciting. And it’s a very uncommercial approach to a retail emporium (laughing), is that what you call it? Okay, to a concept shopping mall!
The focus at Bikini Berlin is currently on gifts and perfect gift-wrapping. How do you wrap your own gifts at home?
- Stefan: We usually recycle the paper from our designs and wrap our gifts in those. But we haven’t even bought any gifts for this Christmas yet, we have to admit. We’re running really late, but we have been very busy with this project (laughing). I think we have enough wrapping paper for this year though…