03/03/2015, 10:00 AM
Fresh morning, makes me want to fill it with coffee and smoke and a nice story. And so we begin this day in a spacious room which is separated from the rest of the studio by this black wall which looks as if it fell from somewhere above and its destination happened to be this studio. It is interesting but Ok, nevermind. Let us sip our coffee from tiny soup bowls and burn it with some smoky inhales of rolled tobacco, as we further dicuss about this centrally positioned chair which put us together in this time and space.
I have first encountered this chair on 3rd of July 2014, during an exhibition and a theater play by Melle Hammer, who at the same time is the designer of this chair. Its cheap and grandiose look caught my attention and kept my eyes staring at it, although I never really bothered to further investigate or question its existence. It seemed cheap in terms of the material it was made of (corrugated cardboard), and grandiose for its physical characteristics and attitude.
As I sit a few steps across from it now, this switch from past to present keeps bouncing back and forth, making me want to finalize my opinion about this chair. But then again, I know almost nothing about it. Although it is now standing upside down, it seems as if it hasn’t changed much, if at all. Cardboard still has the same brown color, its weight still looks cheap. Only this time, there’s more to see from what its interior structure offers, which is interior support consisting of two more cardboards connecting to form a plus-shaped structure.
And it’s Melle showtime, baby, feed me with words. It’s time for some real storytelling. He starts by describing the very first click he had for this chair, which was a theater play written by him. A monologue, or a dialogue should I say, between the writer and himself and so on which doesn’t really matter, but you get the idea. Anyway, the main point is that the he was trying to design a chair for this stage set which would give enough richness to the play, as if holding the whole scene on its legs.
We have a click. Good. And we have a direction/some kind of a plan. Good. What is the the hint, an inspiration, research, anything to grasp and begin with? A CHESTERFIELD CHAIR [x]. Just some background information. Ok, now we are complete: a click, a direction and a sort of inspiration.
Let us continue with some starting points, you know, that time when you get your hands dirty and make some mess. Before Melle starts telling me how the chair came to existence, he wants to make sure I understand the term „problem-solving“ before anything else about this chair, which has its occurence before design and which was his method of designing this chair. As an example, he puts a fork and a lemon squeezer on the table explaining that both of them can be used towards the same goal, which is getting the juice, despite the fact that their functions differ. Lemon squeezer speaks for itself, while the function of a fork, in this situation, would be „problem-solving“. I couldn’t make a direct connection to the chair, but I could sense my subtle excitement for what the following information is about. And so he introduces me to the problem he encountered in the beginning of the process, that being the money. He could not afford buying one of them chesties only for a one night show, so how one dealt with the problem and tried to find a solution resulted in the making of this chair. Corrugated, brown board costs only 6 euros per sheet (inc.taxes). It’s nice, yes, sharp, but its lasting is not long. Let’s say one year long, which is still enough as it was meant to be used for a few hours. Inside, the board consists of fluted sheets which will eventually deform or collapse through longer usage. During this play, the point of the chair where most power is used is armrest. At the same time, that’s where a lot of the chair’s strength comes from and it is double-layered. This armrest gives the chair a possibility to be used as a chair. However, real power comes from the interior of the chair which consists of two centrally crossing cardboards in order to support the weight. At this point of the story, I felt the pieces of the puzzle falling into their place, but Melle concludes it by saying that it is not a design, but a matter of problem-solving.
So far the obstacles encountered in the process were solved. Theater stage had its chair, it survived the show, and it met the budget conditions. Everyone is happy. The story goes on, however. It continues with Melle’s decision to take his problem-solving design further, from which breaking and overcoming more barriers followed. The goal is different now, that being to keep the model design of the chair which is strong enough to hold its ground without the interior support. And to last longer. Pure design. What is the key? Stronger material, which is Falcon board. It consists of standing up hextagons and doesn’t need to be double-layered in order to be stronger. It costs 9-11 euros per sheet(inc.taxes). Of course, it comes with disadvantages. Falcon board cannot be cut with machine pressing and immeddiately cutting down because of its high strength, but it would be possible with a plutter which travels slowly and precisely through the board. That said, it needs time and the production costs. However, this production would allow the possibility to print on the board, which further allows customized prints. This makes it into a more industrial product; it gives a furniture-feel and you can have it made with print preferences.
Scale model(corrugated board chair) • Scale model(falcon board chair)
I go back to that summer evening when I first saw the chair. I try to recall my thoughts, but it seems like I hadn’t put any effort to study the chair. All I can remember is that it did trigger my amazement for it for the reasons of its cheapness and steadiness. And I wonder, if I were to gain this knowledge about the chair before seeing it on stage, would the amazement still be there, or at all? Would it change my focus on the play? At the end of the play, who would my applaud be forwarded to? I was never exposed to much information about the chairs and their existence but the information keeps being present all the time, either verbally or visually. It took two events to broaden my perspective and make me question what lies beneath their designs.
Through Melle’s story; the whole process of deciding about the material, way of production, and constant problem-solving, I have come to realize that designing chairs is one of the hardest tasks for its creator.