Profile: Container Plus

Despite the unusual name, the all-women multidisciplinary art and design collective’s varied output goes from strength to strength. Garrick Webster talks to its partners about its approach and handmade ethos, as well as what’s in store

Even for a creative company, Container Plus has a strange name. People looking for storage solutions often end up on its website, but, in fact, this has netted the group several commissions, such as creating the livery of Goingreen’s London limited-edition G-Wiz eco-car. This happy accident occurred when the managing director found its website after Googling ’container’.

’He told us that when he was looking for containers, in the back of his head he was also thinking about which illustrators he could use for this job. When he opened up our website, he found what he was looking for, so weirdly enough, we got the job,’ says Nicola Carter.

Carter and her partner Luise Vormittag, both with a background in illustration, set up Container nearly a decade ago. In 2008 the company expanded. The ’Plus’ is Patricia Niven, a photographer whose skills gave the group a new dimension, including allowing it to create stop-frame animations.

The fact that they are an all female group is not something they think about much. ’It was just the right people, rather than the right sex. We’ve also worked and collaborated with men along the way, but nobody’s wanted to stick around no one else could handle it,’ laughs Carter.

However, the group does notice gender when looking at who applies for work placements with Container Plus: 90 per cent of the applicants are women. ’I guess lots of design is still relatively male-led, although there are lots of female designers out there,’ says Vormittag.

The Container Plus approach is about creating scenes and settings and using space for a complete sensory experience. ’It’s in our nature to think of the space as a whole, and to work with it as a whole,’ says Vormittag. ’We like people to be immersed in our work and to create environments that you can kind of lose yourself in.’

One rule of how we work is that if we can do something simply, we always make sure to do it in as complicated a way as we can

Luise Vormittag, Container Plus

Working by hand is core to the consultancy’s ethos. When it collaborated with Flash expert Rufus Kähler on a website for advertising agency The Assembly, he suggested various ways to speed things up by working digitally. But Container Plus stuck to cardboard, paper, bits of string and pens.

’I’m sure he was right, but one rule of how we work is that if we can do something simply, we always make sure to do it in as complicated a way as we can. This gives a certain kind of texture and a certain sensibility to our work,’ says Vormittag. Niven continues, ’Personally, I can’t conceive of how you’d make anything in computer land. We don’t have those skills. It’s much easier to say, “Here’s our tea cosy. Let’s just make it”, rather than having to sit next to someone for hours making it in 3D and yet it is still non-existent. Why would you do that?’

From stop-motion to retail interiors, straight advertising to gallery installations, Container Plus takes its handmade style to any medium. ’That’s the lucky thing our work is always so varied,’ says Carter. ’It’s about getting into a different head space when a new job starts.’

New things are happening all the time, it seems. The group recently started Monday Club, which takes place periodically at the office the group shares with The Assembly, and features talks and art installations. The group is also talking to the Victoria & Albert Museum about creating work for the museum’s Friday Late events.

The NHS charity Vital Arts has also just commissioned the group to create an illustrated book called Message in a Bottle: Stories of Thrilling Adventure, to help entertain hospital in-patients.

’It’s really nice,’ says Vormittag. ’The idea is to engage patients who are probably in a not particularly thrilling environment to take their mind off their immediate circumstances.’

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