‘Well Proven Chair’, 2012
Marjan van Aubel & James Shaw
THIS CHAIR LAUNCHED exactly eight years ago, at the London Design Festival, in an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum entitled Out of the Woods. Marjan van Aubel had just graduated from a Royal College of Arts Master in Design Products, while James Shaw had a year still to run. The chair was the response to a brief to record and measure every scrap of material and minute of production time associated with a design, to test its total cost and relative sustainability. The students worked with manufacturer Benchmark, in collaboration with the American Hardwood Council.
Addressing the fact that 50-80% of timber is wasted during normal manufacture, Shaw and Aubel discovered that if you collect wood shavings off the floor of the workshop and mix them with bio-resin, the reaction produces a strong, mouldable foam-like material – almost twice the mass of the waste. Add colour, and you can confect these wonderful chairs and stools by moulding the material around a simple wooden structure. Once the foam has set, the furniture retains the anarchic energy of the original chemical reaction but is smooth, light and stable. This series captured the imagination of everyone who saw them, and is now included in museum collections around the world.
Van Aubel had already shown form with foam. Her degree show at the Rietveld Academy DesignLAB in 2009 had featured cupboards made out of a self-developed foam porcelain. As her website explains, “Just like bread, the foam literally rises in the kiln, expanding itself about 300% its original volume.” The material can then be used much like china to create tableware, bricks and tiles. The award-winning designer has gone on explore other natural chemical reactions – particularly the action of sunlight – in work that ranges across sustainability, design and technology.
For British designer James Shaw, the creation of new products involves hands-on manipulation of materials, alongside a consistent questioning of our systems and values. Today he is perhaps best known for his on-going Plastic Baroque project dedicated to the transformation of waste plastic into gorgeous new objects.
This chair captures the optimism and energy of these young designers using the making of furniture to interrogate their own discipline and its place in society. No wonder it is the poster object of the exhibition la manufacture: a labour of love, part of Lille Métropole 2020, World Design Capital 2020. Curated by the renowned trend forecaster Lidewij Edelkoort, the exhibition opened at the Gare Saint Sauveur this week – and runs until 8th November.
Marjan van Aubel and Jamie Shaw making the ‘Well Proven Chair’
COURTESY: Marjan van Aubel Studio