One of them is extremely thorough, precise and patient, while the other is a bit restless, and is constantly trying to shake things up a bit. They are the perfect combination of carpenter and visual merchandizer. They met at IKEA, but today they are creating their objects and furniture in their workshop on Népsziget. We interviewed Viki Horváth and Gábor Engler.
Gábor: Viki and I met in 2008 first, when I applied to IKEA for a carpenter job. Practically she hired me, and then she quit quite soon so that she could become a freelancer. We met again after 5 years at a party in Fogasház through mutual friends. As a couple, we lived in two separate apartments for a long time and we only met rarely because Viki was abroad almost all the time. We only started to make plans together when we finally moved together. Renting out our workshop on Népsziget and my quitting the multinational sector so that I could concentrate all my capacities on our own thing was a very big step.
Viki: Gábor is not a very impulsive person, unlike me. We danced around each other for a long time until finally we found a rhythm that worked for both of us. After our meeting at IKEA, I went through a very adventurous period in my life, with a lot of traveling: I was a bartender on a Thai island, a trainee at the art department of a movie studio in the Philippines, and since then I have been designing and building the interiors of IKEA stores all over the world. Even this crazy way of life didn’t break us apart, and this is mainly owing to Gábor, who was always waiting for me at home, like a safe island…
Gábor: We have always had a lot of ideas: objects for ourselves, friends and family members. Only a small part of them were actually made, usually in the last minute, at night. We found the studio with the help of Filip (Tomi Budha), who used to hold events at the site in the summer. We loved the vibe of the place very much, and Népsziget became our second home soon. The workshop is the synthetization of our ideas: a woodworking shop with practical tools, where even the work station is custom designed and made, and if I finally have the time to install all accessories, it will be smarter than all of us. Of course it shows on the workshop that it is not only my empire and not only because there isn’t any calendars with naked ladies in it, but because Viki brought her own ideas with her; this is how we made platforms out of brick and a counter and seats out of breeze blocks.
Viki: NEONGREY is an organic part of our everyday life—even though our main playground is our workshop, the brand is always there in our lives. We like to experiment; each and every piece we make is made with a special technique or tool. The latter is provided by Gábor’s desk, especially when it comes to Japanese hand tools. I am in charge of the supercool NEON colors, and I also take care of practical tasks like packaging and keeping contact with partners. Luckily we also have a very effective manager, Bianka Geiger, who’s always there when we need her.
We love and look for similarly special artists, brands or small companies with whom we can collaborate. This is how I ended up in PINKPONILO’s studio, where I sew the packaging of products in a very good atmosphere. We also collaborate with Kinga Elekes, the designer of Mástészta frequently, who has designed edible installations for several events we held, or with Balázs Csizik, who brings out our objects from the context we know on his photos with this unique perspective. But we could also mention the 40-year-old Újpest-based woodturning company that manufactures bars for us. This is a line we would like to focus on even more consciously in the future.
Gábor: I love Viki’s perspective. She always tries to shake things up a bit, see them from a different perspective. That’s right, I love this, even though sometimes it can be challenging. A good example of this is the wardrobe we have at home under the gallery, which she imagined without rear panels or reinforcement. First I thought it was crazy, but eventually I didn’t rest until I came up with an good solution.
Viki: I learn a lot of patience and humility from Gábor. I have always been “creative”, I start all kinds of things: I paint, I sew, I drill, I carve. I like clever ideas and quick results. I had to learn however that sometimes—okay, always—I can achieve a much better result if I don’t skip a few steps. Gábor is very precise and thorough, which is a basic requirement in his profession, and I am better in developing and structuring processes.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OR CRITICS
Gábor: Sometimes we have to make several rounds until we finally understand each other: I look at the feasibility of things, while Viki usually has a whole different approach. On top, we always have to find the perfect tone, too: both of us can insist on our ideas passionately, even if they are not the best. Many times it takes time to convince the other, but an idea or an object can only become complete if both of us can relate to it.
Viki: At the beginning we had a hard time understanding each other, but the more we worked together in our workshop, the more we got to know and acknowledge each other’s strengths, and so things go more smoothly—what has been incidental in the beginning we do much more consciously now.
Gábor: I have practical dreams—continuous progress and innovation, and to make our workshop be seen and known. I would like us to be effective yet to remain on a human scale, and to be able to implement our ideas continuously. Our goal is to build a strong brand, with objects that make people say: “look, it’s a NEONGREY”.
Viki: Other than continuously longing to be elsewhere, or perhaps because of it, I sometimes fantasize about combining traveling and creation, and about pursuing a nomadic way of life. We could live and work in various countries, creating objects and furniture inspired by local values, using local materials and techniques. Japan or India could be the first destinations.
Gábor: When I first visited Viki at the dawn of our relationship—who was working in Paris at the time—we agreed to meet in a café in Montparnasse. Then my phone died and I became unavailable. Now I know this is how you make a good entrance on a first date!
Viki: We have many… most of them are obviously stories related to travels. My favorite was when on our last night in Bangkok, we went to a fantastic fine dining restaurant, and while I was in the bathroom, the Thai staff started to ask Gábor about the apropos of our dinner. As usual, everyone misunderstood everything, and from that moment they kept bringing double desserts and other stuff, and we didn’t know why, but we were very happy about it. It only turned out when we were leaving that they thought it was our anniversary. This is how they gave us our anniversary, which we celebrate every year.
Photos: Balázs Mohai