Laikingland is a creative label, based in both the UK and The Netherlands, who design and manufacture beautifully crafted kinetic objects that engage, and evoke a sense of play and nostalgia.
What is your background?
Nick: We have been friends for nearly 30 years and first met at high school in West Yorkshire, England. After high school Martin went to Art College and Nick went to study Mechanical Engineering.
Following that Martin started his own artist studio in 1993 http://www.smithautomata.co.uk/. Martin's research and work are concerned with people's perception and interpretation of space. Alongside this work his practice is also concerned with making kinetic architectural maquettes that slowly investigate themes of repetition, precision and rules.
Martin is also the Co-Founder and Art Director of the design label, Laikingland. The work he creates through this company plays with the themes of humour, nonsense and futility.
Martin: Nick is now the Engineering Director of Laikingland. He was born and raised in West Yorkshire, UK, but now lives and works in Utrecht, the Netherlands. He has over 16 years product development and engineering management experience in the global automotive industry. He has worked with many of the world’s leading automotive companies in the UK, Europe, USA and Asia.
Why did you accept to collaborate?
Martin: Throughout our careers we stayed friends and when Nick got married, I gave a gift of an Applause Machine to congratulate the happy couple. From that point we started to discuss the idea of working on a product together, using my concept and craftsmanship skills and Nick’s engineering and development knowledge.
What do you expect from this collaboration?
Laikingland is a creative label that specializes in the design and manufacture beautifully crafted kinetic objects. However, we didn’t set up the company to only produce kinetic objects, we actually set up the company as an interesting means to collaborate together and also with other creative people.
What do these machines inspire you?
In the area that we grew up, ‘Laik’ actually means to ‘play’, so there is always an amount of playfulness and humour into the objects we create. Our hope is that with our designs we will encourage everyday playfulness.
What is/was your biggest challenge in terms of realization of your pieces?
Nick: Sometimes, obviously in product development we need to find a technical solution to a problem. This can be a big challenge, but finding the right technical solutions is really our expertise and what we love to do, so we can usually find the right direction.
Between Martin, myself and Willem (Laikingland Projects Director) we have over 50 years of experience in engineering, product development and craftsmanship of moving objects. These skills are really complimentary and very interesting to use in finding technical solutions to problems for both products and projects.
The larger challenges tend to be TIME, as there is never enough to do all the things we want to do and what other people ask us to do.
What is the biggest satisfaction you can get?
Martin: For me it is when I’m in my studio developing a concept maquette and I get it to do what I want.
Nick: We have shown new product ranges 3 times at Ventura Lambrate during Milan Salone del Mobile (2010/11/12) and were always delighted with the reaction of visitors. They are often somewhat surprised to see our kinetic objects in the middle of a design / furniture exhibition but usually leave us with big smiles after seeing the wonderful craftsmanship and surprising functionality of our work.
Some of the best feedback is from the many designers that we meet and who say they would like to collaborate on a Laikingland product or project.
Our hope is that with our designs we will encourage everyday playfulness.
Why are you doing what you do?
Martin: I talk too fast so it’s my way of communicating. Nick: I’m trying to improve my good ideas per month ratio. I’m currently at approx. 1 per month.
Could Laikingland stay the same without one of you?
Laikingland is really evolving and growing as a company so it’s already not the same as the company we first envisaged. Creative companies need to keep evolving and changing or they will become predictable.
Playtime with kinetic art
We invite you to brighten your mood and nourish your soul by discovering the playful creations of Laikingland
The Applause Machine, by Martin Smith, is a whimsical innovation that sees two hands clap together rhythmically when its button is pushed. An original and playful way of saying “Bravo!”
“I initially designed and made The Applause Machine to gently poke fun at myself: ‘Artist makes self-applauding machine’,” says Smith. “Then I presented Nick and his wife an Applause Machine on their wedding day as a beautiful way to say ‘congratulations’. This gift sparked an idea in Nick's head that he could work with me to re-engineer the piece for production!”
- Dimensions: 45cm/18”
- Limited edition of 250 pieces each. Price: 2,000 AED
Thanks to the Spinning Heart Machine by Martin Smith, “Giving one’s heart to someone” has never been so easy! And you won’t just give your heart, you will also show your special someone how fast he or she makes it spin. As the handle of this amusing mechanical sculpture is turned, the gears engage to hypnotically flip, spin and rotate the heart.
- Height: 33cm
- Limited and numbered edition of 25 pieces
- Price: 4,500 AED
Double Heart Beater by Martin Smith is an alarming little machine to demand the attention of the one you love. “Part of my creative practice is concerned with making kinetic devices that investigate themes of humour, nonsense and futility. I originally designed and made the Heart Beater as a St Valentine’s Day gift to the one I love.” As you turn the handle of this amusing mechanical sculpture, the heart beats depending on your mood at a boisterous or suave rhythm.
- Height: 17cm
- Limited and numbered edition of 100 pieces
- Price: 1,600 AED
Fingers Mk III by Nik Ramage is a fantastic, impatiently-tapping mechanical replica of Ramage’s own hand. At the flick of a switch, the realistic digits in distinctive dark black iron drum rhythmically, until the motor is turned off again. Ramage has been a good friend of Smith for many years, describing himself as “a mechanical sculptor who makes useless machines and invents contraptions that the world didn't know it needed”.
- Price: 4,500 AED
Just About Now by Maarten Baas is a sand timer that indicates the passing of time with the sounding of a gong. The device starts by scooping sand from a bowl into a glass funnel. The sand then trickles down into a brass cup attached to a beater, before leaking back into the bowl, causing the beater to strike a gong once the cup is empty.
“I wanted to create a timer that bangs a gong more or less after the amount of time desired,” says Bass. “Knowing the exact time is often irrelevant. A coffee break, a meditation, a nap, a business meeting… they could all take a few minutes longer or shorter than an exact amount of time.”
- Dimensions: H 320mm/12.5” W 435mm/17” D 185mm/7.5”
- Limited edition of 18 pieces
- Price: 22,000 AED
- Edition: Hand made to order.
The Heart Beater An alarming little machine to demand the attention of the one you love.
- Dimensions: Height: 17cm
- Price: 1,600 AED