Attentive is a collection of furniture designed for an active lifestyle.
We have busy periods of our life; always daily, mostly weekly and often for a whole month. We sometimes wonder why the chairs we sit on seem to envelop and stop us from just getting on with it.
The Attentive chair is good for times like this. While you are focused on the job, it supports you, keeps your core working while you’re not even thinking about it. Lean backwards and the back touches you just where you want it. Feels good to stretch yourself. In a consultant’s clinic, around a working table, in a hotel lobby. Places where you don’t want the chair to swallow you up and where everyone needs to concentrate.
The Attentive range allows this to happen and is also slender and discrete in a public place. It has something of the mid 20th century feel about it but definitely belongs to the 21st century lifestyle.
This collection came from the entrepreneurial spirit of an engineer who accepted the challenge of making a chair. The project started as an exploration of what could be done with laminates, without losing that solid wood feel. Out of the experimentation came a chair with a convex seat, a convex back and a unique method of upholstery capture. Key to the economics of the collection was CNC machining which could cut complex curves and curved recesses easily and quickly.
The connection between designer and manufacturer is always critical. In this case the manufacturer was prepared to work with the designer to improve the chair both on the cost side and for the skills of his team. He has an operation which prioritises the contribution of each team member and fosters an open relationship throughout the company. Here the designer was able to meet the director and makers and talk through ways in which the manufacturing processes could be improved.
Here is an example of how a UK based operation provides a successful outcome. A clear understanding of the design and its context by everyone involved, enabled the final product to be greater than the sum of its parts.
It is now a collection with tables and stools to partner the chair. The tables provide that same function, uncluttered with stretcher rails and bulky drawers and with space for putting a laptop or tablet out of sight. The standing table enhances that dynamic interaction but without the need for a chair.
Manufactured in Britain from European ash. The chairs are made in a small factory in Coventry and the tables by a small family firm in Suffolk. All committed to the value of UK made products.
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In the craft world, manufacturing is often associated with a personal detachment from the material being worked. Manufacturing is efficient, reduces the price of each unit and makes the item accessible to a wider market. But it is not made by craftsmen.
Dundee Design Festival promoted a different perspective. Industrial tools and processes connect to the individual maker.
Silo Studio shared their passion for production processes and how it led to developing a new material for furniture. Polystyrene looks an unlikely starting point. Delving deeply into the source material and challenging some industrial practice Attua Aparicio and Oscar Lessing came up with not so expanded polystyrene. It can be moulded and formed into rails and posts, just what is required for furniture.
Table made from ‘Not So Expanded Polystyrene’
‘Not So Expanded Polystyrene’ material
This process of enquiry led to other projects. Plastic keys from redundant keyboards could form colourful surfaces for tables. Especially interesting to the manufacturer of those keyboards at this time of global overload. Understanding the materials and who could have an interest in using them is part of finding a bridge between crafts and industry.
Attua and Oscar use Jesmonite to make bowls. This is an acrylic/plaster of paris mix which sets to a hard material which can be polished. Attua and Oscar demonstrated the skilled use of colour and an understanding of the properties of the unset material to make appealing patterns.
One strand of the craft debate is about the connection between the hand and the eye. Critical to personal success is an intuitive understanding of the process. At Dundee we saw that idea built upon. Here are some examples.
CHALK specialises in designing and creating beautiful decorative plasterwork. They use traditional techniques in the restoration of historic interiors undertaking minor repairs to the complete reinstatement of original designs
a classical urn in a contemporary setting
GLITHERO are British designer Tim Simpson and Dutch designer Sarah van Gameren, who met and studied at the Royal College of Art. From their studio in London they create product, furniture, and time-based installations that give birth to unique and wonderful products. The work is presented in a broad spectrum of media, but follows a consistent conceptual path; to capture and present the beauty in the moment things are made.
digitised organ music woven on a Jacquard loom
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damask tablecloth depicting a Jacquard weaving book
It has been a fulfilling 15 months since my last post.
The main event has been the exhibition ‘After the Storm‘ , held in the John Hope Gateway Gallery of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. 12 cabinet makers from the Scottish Furniture Makers Association designed and made furniture using timber from the gardens blown down in 2012 by Cyclone Andrea. Oak, cedar, maple and chestnut formed the most usable wood. With the support of Forestry Commission Scotland, RBGE and members of SFMA, the exhibition became a celebration of creative talent.
Here is an image of the piece I collaborated on with Gavin Robertson – Gavin the experienced maker and me the designer. Always an interesting interchange when two creative people work together for common purpose. I hope we will have the opportunity to do this again.
Tsunami chart cabinet made from cedar and yew
Many people experience the rising of water, albeit gently but inexorable, over the parapets designed to protect.
The exhibition closes on 28th May.
A book written to complement the event is available in the shop. It explores ecological change, resilience and renewal in the context of Cyclone Andrea and has pictures of the furniture.
In addition to the exhibition, a bench for the gardens has been sponsored by the MS society (Edinburgh and the Lothians) and made by Angus Ross. It is to be a place of reflection and a destination for visitors. The MS Society were particularly supportive of this project because people who have the condition have had to make major adjustments to their life and adapt to new expectations.
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I look at this work by Danish textile practitioner Anette Bendixen and I love the combination of thought, use of materials and the idea behind an image that shocked the 19th century salon society, being made in the 21st century from yarns. The interlacing is done by hand with each connection dependent on the judgement of the makers eye and the skill of their hand.
Picts needed to create influential images. The work involved carving granite which suggests the person who commissioned the work had something important and enduring to say. Mysterious in our current world, but something to take inspiration from. Look at the maiden stone and wonder.
Beatriz Schaaf-Giesser made this image from felt, which sits beautifully on granite but is in a material which requires skill and understanding to work. From this textile collaboration using images carved on stone, here is a new back design for Attentive in wood and copper.
One project completed last year has been an experiment in modular display units, inspired by wine boxes but sized to fit LP’s. This is called the ‘Elpea’ system, where each unit locks together and is built up from the floor.
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Winter reading included a revisit of Gareth Williams ‘The Furniture Machine – furniture since 1990’ (V&A publications 2006) which reminded me of the giant forces that are out there influencing taste in furniture. This book tracks the development of several celebrity designers, who Williams terms as part of an egosystem, and have design thinking. Take Jurgen Bey and his tree trunk bench at €12,500. He was experimenting with the meaning of furniture rather than the practicalities of it. He made a statement that it is ridiculous to transport trees when they are available locally, so you only get three bronze chair backs for your money.
Gaetano Pesce made a piece that fulfilled all the demands of furniture in a new family home. Child proof, colourful, comfortable and easy to move. Donna is a polyurethane foam product made at a time when pop art was at its zenith and new materials in vogue. In fact this one came virtually flatpack – it could be vacuum compressed to only 10% of its volume. Manufactured by Cassina and Busnelli in 1969 with a reissue in 2000 it featured in Big Brother in 2002.
Vitra design museum
Continuing to explore the design possibilities for Attentive, there are now six different backs, designed as part of a set for a kitchen table and with continued influence from the Omega workshops of Christopher Fry, Bauhaus and from Mediaeval Spain. The Alcazar Palace in Seville had some stunning images, crafted in wood and ceramics, the source of three of these backs. The veneers and copper for Attentive are cut by Laser through Heritage Inlays in Brighton.
Jonathan Rose Designs
Technology plays its part in progressing design and I’m sure is one of the forces that Gareth Williams talks about.
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And here she is to face the world.
Attentive in the sun
Attentive at work
Attentive looked down on
Nobody but nobody should walk away
Come to SECC Glasgow 23rd to 26th May stand L445 and see it in the flesh – or is it wood?
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Here’s some more stuff for furniture makers, furniture lovers, design geeks and generally happy people. There may be a laugh along the way. I’d love to hear from you if you are moved to respond, just a click away. The website will soon link to jonathanrosedesigns facebook page which I expect to have the usual Facebook stuff, and my tweets when they start up again.
Over the last few weeks I have been working in the MAKE Aberdeen workshop, run by Peacock Visual Arts and Aberdeen City council at 17 Belmont Street. In there is a laser cutter, digital sewing machine, 3D printer, flatbed router and some electrical stuff. Really helpful staff, Iain and Conner, especially if you have limited vector graphics skills.
There is a big question out there for me right now – how do you decorate wood or indeed why would you do so if it is such a beautiful material? Here is what I’m experimenting with; inlaying copper into wood. It has a colour offer, a shape offer and wire comes in remarkably accurate widths. This combination has the strange effect of being visible if the light is shining in one direction yet invisible from another.
From the laser cutter came this simple shape – about 20mm square. Combining it with 2 mm plate copper and I could get a shape like this. The laser cutter couldn’t do the copper, but Poseidon (Old Meldrum) have a water-jet cutter that can. This is a remarkable tool – cuts 50mm granite.
No more scalpels, no more files. A big question – what new skills?
Then what started out as a picture like this; a 1920s textile, possibly Bauhaus or Omega workshops
could turn into a decoration like this – or at least the starting point.
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