The opportunity to be surrounded by young and bright designers is never a great as in the midst of design school. The unfortunate downside is that being educated among a wealth of talent may lead to homogenous approaches to design through traditional university education. The RISD Furniture Department undergraduate class appears to have avoided that pitfall, producing some very interesting (and diverse) young designers in 2013. The work runs the gamut from the elegant compound curvatures of Laura Kishimoto's woodworking to the Playful Pop of Jamie Wolfond's approach to design for manufacturing.
So to does their fellow classmate Benjamin Kicic offer yet another approach with a selection of furniture objects that seem to only be described as politely subversive. Paying both homage to centuries of furniture design history with a dash of dry humor about the future of manufacturing, Kicic strikes a chord dealing with old forms and new materials. Oftentimes, projects that attempt to bridge the (expansive) gap between traditional making and the age of digital reproduction can fall into the 'lukewarm novelty' category, but Kicic's work makes the jump successfully. The careful blending of what should be strongly opposed design elements open up a mature conversation about the canon of design history and uncertainty of design future.
Model Chair Mock-up without Bronze Joinery
Kicic's Model Chair, in particular, was devised as an exercise in departure from the traditional approach to furniture making. Although object design is often heavy on hands-off planning and forever married to craft, Kicic inverted the process, embracing an ad-hoc approach. The chair attempts to celebrate temporary joinery (composed here of hot glue) by making it permanent through bronze casting. This dedication to diverting the 'usual' approach to construction or material is a thread that runs through much of Kicic's work, culminating recently completed BFA thesis.
Initial Joint created with Hot Glue and later cast in white bronze
With furniture, an object's value can often be determined by the way the parts are connected and how much craft and time goes into these connections. With this chair, the form was chiefly dictated by a process largely removed from craft and much more gestural. Preciousness and joint strength was returned through casting the hot glue in white bronze. My goal [with the Model Chair] was to create something that was both calculated and gestural, that played with a new way of working and thinking, a structurally sound object created with a quick and messy gesture.
White bronze joints cast from Hot Glue
In the majority of his thesis collecton, Kicic speaks of his work as a rewriting or alternative mythology for the familiar. Much as one might retell a story with details embellished over time, Kicic retells the story of the archetype with the inescapable aesthetic vocabulary of a millennial. The result is a body of work that leave us neither in the future nor past but in the awkward gap between advanced materials and traditional craft.
It's an exploration in recognition through material, craft and archetype. The objects created are not historic objects or strict archetypes; they are not attempting to accurately reproduce a moment of the past, they are creating new ideas of the past, based on new ways of working and thinking.
Carbon Fiber Tilt Top Table inspired by Colonial Era Design