A chair can stand alone as a striking three dimensional object in a way most other furniture can't. A universal object, one in every home. Well hopefully at least one each, but if you not you had better be quick when the music stops. Sometimes they wait patiently in the corner ready to accommodate the extra guest. Sometimes they move frequently: in and out from under the table, admiring the view from the window or holding steady under your feet in the dimness as the new bulb twists into place. How many chairs does it take to change a light bulb? Just one.
This is a chair from my Nan's bedroom. As a little kid I would sit in it while she brushed the tangles out of my hair. It's been with me in my student houses and various bedrooms getting itself a bit scuffed on the way but I just can't paint it. I never knew what happened to the cushion which I keep meaning to replace but in the meantime (erm the past 12 years) this wooden top off an old coffee table fits perfectly in place.
There were several chairs nominated for The Design Awards at London's Design Museum. As a chair they all begin with the same simple purpose of a seat, but the designer's approach, material choice and processes makes them so much more. They are examples of unique textures utilizing imaginative processes and even expressing thought and ideas. Here are a few I snapped while I was there.
From the 60s satellite shape, to the bold colours, woven construction and graphic lines this really is Marni as a chair. As well as looking so great, there is substance behind the style.
These woven designs are from a collection called 100 Chairs as a collaboration between Marni and Colombian craftsmen.
The frames are reclaimed from traditional Colombian furniture, with the colourful PVC woven by ex-prisoners in a social rehabilitation program. The profits got to ICAM, an institute to help children of imprisoned mothers.
More salvaged frames below, found on the streets in East London by the designer's studio. Powder coated and reupholstered these once sad office rejects take on a bold new personality. It would be great if their Reimagined chairs encouraged others to mend or do-up their own pieces or go hunting for their own to recycle and reuse making them fit with their personal style.
The Studiomama online shop has some great projects giving you a tutorial on how to make your own chairs, lamps and play houses. There's even a free PDF to make your own outdoor kitchen. Its is a perfect way to escape a hot cooking zone to get out in the great outdoors, and own a piece of great design but satisfyingly made by your own fair hand!
The Winner of the furniture award is this Medici chair whic you can see/sit on & purchase for yourself at the Aram store. It looks simple even with it's joints left in full view and it's honest elegance comes from the well planned construction and knowledge of materials by cabinet maker Konstantin Grcic. Using thermo treated ash, and precision joinery the shapes are created in Northern Italy by family firm Mattiiazzi, who have embraced modern computer technology to give meticulous accuracy.
This back to basics approach illustrates how a familiar material and the traditional skills of a craftsman can combine with the digital technology we have available today. Grcic says:
"Designing for Mattiazzi was like a personal time travel. It took me all the way back to my professional roots. At the very beginning of my career, I was trained a cabinet-maker. Working with wood is what I learnt from scratch. It is where it all started for me."
This edible looking chair isn't a big baked biscuit, but as it's name suggests is formed by a chemical reaction between wood shavings and bio-resin just like the yeast making your ball of bread dough double in size. This material can actually expand up to five times its original and was discovered by Marjan Van Aubel and James Shaw through RCA workshop "Out of the Woods" looking at ways to use some of the 80% of material that is wasted in furniture manufacture. Like the DIY fabrication encouraged by Studiomama, this expanding material looks like it could have a use as a product for individuals where a small amount of mixture that is easier to transport can provide you with a solid piece of simple furniture, like a llittle stool.
Here is a video of the two designers discussing their discovery and getting their hands dirty squidging the material in place around their chair mould.
As well as highlighting the problems of pollution to raise our awareness of the state of our own coastline, another positive of this piece is it actually uses the offending material and transforms it into a useful object with infinite colours and a unique texture. After the plastic waste is swept up in fishing nets and sorted to go into a hydraulic press and furnace named "The Sea Press" this new material is moulded and shaped with hand tools.
The designers propose this could become an opportunity for fisherman as a micro industry, using their skills to trawl for this material and make these products, helping to clean up the seas as they do so.
This intriguing object originates in Cornwall. Contrasting the idyllic family holidays and beautiful sea views that have inspired so many artists, it is made from plastic waste collected from Porthtowan beach. I had no idea that it is one of the most polluted coastlines in the U.K for this, and that is what U.K designer Kieran Jones and the Brazilian based Studio Swine want to draw our attention to with this piece.
I love this alchemy of making something from nothing, and the object they produce becomes much more interesting and organic-looking like the texture of a strange pineapple or layers of oil paint zoomed into a painting.
Tuomas Marunpoika created this chair by encasing wooden furniture in metal rings, before burning away the original piece to be left with the shell he created. On his website he says:
"The use of language in Western contemporary culture implies that memories are often conceived as possessions: we ‘keep’ memories alive or ‘preserve’ them, as if our memories were materialised objects. These objects become mementos and our personal possessions of which we are responsible for. When objects impregnated with memories are created, they become precious and irreplaceable because of the transference of memories into that object."
This was his own personal response to his grandmother's Alzheimer's disease. Watching her health decline, losing her memories and the strong person she once was he wants to represent the fragile shadow left behind: "vaporising the very core of her personality and life...turning her into a shell of a human being."
The designer states his design aim as to: "translate human fragility into a design object and introduce humanistic, more profound values into the field of design where functionality, aesthetics and mass produced perfectness are the paramount."
Below is an atmospheric video of one of his other beautiful creations using this method.
I was very excited to see these next sci-fi looking stools by Jólan van der Wiel after reading about his amazing process a while ago. My own work is inspired and informed by the construction of minerals and learning about geological processes that form the Earth over millions of years. These stools have that same appearance of organic growth and mysterious, almost unbelievable natural processes to create a unique shape.
“This is a departure from the idea that everything is influenced by gravity,"
Even the tallest stalagmites start with one drip, and these remarkable pieces are due to the tiny iron fragments in their composition. Using a machine a bit like a vice with magnets in both parts, when drawn apart the plastic and iron filing mixture betwixt them is magnetically pulled forming the legs. He is also experimenting with other objects, I really like the candlesticks, I could imagine Labyrinth Bowie hosting a dinner party with those.
A great thing about the Design Awards is that they exhibited the machine in the actual display. When I was given a tour by one of the curators he spoke about the careful planning and budget constraints of the exhibition. International shipping of these kinds of objects isn't cheap or easy which is why it's a great opportunity to see these new, ground breaking inventions behind the product.
Here is a video of the magnetic magician at work where you can actually watch it form before your very eyes! To learn more on the Design Awards and find out what's on at the Design Museum here's the link: Design Museum