Design life... with artist Eric Knoben

His work has graced the homes of music royalty, including Madonna, Pink Floyd’s David Gilmore, and the Beatles’ Ringo Starr and George Harrison.

And now Auckland-born Eric Knoben has returned to his hometown, showcasing a collection of his works, furniture and art in a pop up shop on Ponsonby Road; all pieces are handmade, many are one-offs.

Knoben began his career in London in the early 90s, after graduating from Whitecliffe Art School in Auckland. In less than a year, he was working with luxury brands Prada and Ralph Lauren, as well as the aforementioned music stars.

His career as surface effects specialist was well and truly on track, and has seen him travel and work all around Europe.

Works by Eric Knoben

“The level of craftsmanship in Europe is next level and the scope of jobs I worked on was mind-blowing," says Knoben.

"One week I would be making the walls of a luxury retail store shine like marble, the next week I’d be distressing antique furniture for the mansion of a rock and roll god. It was a crazy ride and I was constantly challenged."

He now splits his time between New Zealand and Europe, continuing to work with top level architects and prestigious clients.

We have a quick word with Knoben about his work, tools of the trade, and what a surface effects specialist really does.

My first job was... Painting and plastering houses and buildings.

And now the title on my business card is... Eric Knoben – Surface Effects Specialist

Which really means... I take any surface, mainly furniture, walls or mirrors and make them look like anything my clients want them to be.

I might make a coffee table that looks like leather or a wall that looks like cracked porcelain. The possibilities are endless and I’m constantly experimenting with new techniques and effects. 

My day starts with... Coffee and a commute to my pop up shop and gallery, which you'll find at 235 Ponsonby Road (opposite Bambina).

And ends with... Dinner with the family, followed by time researching what’s going on in the world of design – usually over a quiet beer. 

And in between... At the moment I spend a lot of time in the shop, but otherwise I’m travelling round Auckland meeting clients and working on concepts; otherwise I’m in the studio getting the job done. Everything is hand crafted so I spend a lot of time in my studio.

My first artistic memory is... Doing a life drawing of a pumpkin with a crayon – I must have been about 5 or 6. Then I ate the crayon.

If I wasn't doing this, I would... I ask myself that a lot – but I can’t imagine doing anything else. Whatever it is, it would be something creative. I’ve been drawing and painting forever, so I’d be looking for another way to use those talents.

I'm inspired by... Geoff Coon – I like how crazy he is. I also like how clean his work is. Art can be too complicated and he finds fun and simplicity with his work.

The tools of my trade are… Whatever I need to use to create an effect. I use Resene’s industrial paints, I’ve got hundreds of paintbrushes, rollers and things like that, but I’m just as likely to use a sponge or my hands to create an effect.

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