‘Reeve Chair’, 2012
‘REEVE CHAIR’ REPURPOSES a classic Van Keppel-Green mid-century modern design. Developed by Turkish-born, New York-based artist Betil Dagdelen in 2012, this work is one of her first forays into unconventional textile applications. “This is the first time I used a simple, stripped-down chair frame as a loom,” she explains. “I was still in the process of teaching myself how to weave and wanted to challenge myself by not using traditional tools. I knew the frame had to be strong enough to endure the tension, but that’s all I knew.”
Interlaced between the rigid metal frame of a chair, the churro wool, cotton warp, hemp threads render soft textile planes. Various recognisable motifs appear in sequence from left to right and from top to bottom, not unlike a text on a page or the process by which fabric is woven on a loom. Such a composition – fading in and out of intensity, detail and complex pattern – achieves a careful balance of bright and more sombre colourways, while also alluding to the faded aesthetic of ancient mosaic. The juxtaposition of such ornamental complexity with the austerity of the pared-back frame provides a striking visual dialogue, one that perhaps requires the user to reflect on the historical significance of either element.
“At first, the idea of creating patterns was mysterious to me, but after mastering different established techniques from New Mexico, Peru and my native Turkey, I’d decided to challenge them and forge my own path,” she reflects. “That being said, it’s important to understand the traditions before taking a chance with something new.”
For Dagdelen, represented by New York’s Cristina Grajales Gallery, working with the furniture structures allows her to experiment with different materials, colours, and techniques. The base forms also help demonstrate a clear underlying function and suggest a sense of sophistication and domesticity. The designer has since created several woven furniture applications, including sofas, lampshades and settees.
‘Reeve Chair’ is currently part of a thematic show at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Art that seeks to demystify and illustrate the fundamental crafts involved in design. The ‘Extraordinary Ordinary Things’ exhibition aims to present the museum’s extensive 300 piece decorative arts collection and commemorate the acquisition of 150 new works, including this woven chair. Groundbreaking designs by contemporary movers and shakers Joris Laarman and Magdalene Odundo join pieces by historic heavyweights Charles and Ray Eames and Charlotte Perriand.
“In an industry dominated by mass-production, I find that featuring works that are indicative of handicrafts is ever more significant,” Dagdelen concludes. “My textile work intertwines time-honoured weaving techniques with innovative material choices and free-form improvisations; the inherent strength of the woven material becomes a structural element within the piece and highlights the potency of the craft.”