In the Details
Had Albrecht Dürer been able to attend this year's Salone Milan, he would have been pleased to see his designs getting a new breath of life thanks to the work of deJongeKalff. The Dutch design studio based its silicon Table Skin Embroidery on one of Dürer's woodcuts as part of m2, an exhibition put on by Droog featuring new works adapted from some of the 8,000 objects in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum.
The artists Jennifer de Jonge and Roos Kalff founded deJongeKalff in 2011; since then, they've continued to work independently while pursuing some projects jointly, having discovering the benefits that come with co-working and the cross-pollination of disciplines. (No doubt Dürer, who was a painter, engraver, printmaker, mathematician, and theorist, would have approved.) One of the beneficial byproducts of this arrangement was the Table Skin. Kalff got the idea for the product after observing de Jonge experiment with pouring leftover rubber from another project over various glass plates. Fascinated with how the heavy material fell and revealed the structure beneath it, Kalff immediately thought of the drapes and folds of a tablecloth.
Albrecht Dürer's woodcut Pattern from the Series of Six Knots, completed in 1507, was the inspiration for a new version of deJongeKalff's Table Skin on display in Milan earlier this month.
So the designers set out to create an actual tablecloth in this manner. First deJongeKalff covered the top of a table with a large bread of clay weighing roughly 22 pounds, building it up to about six millimeters in thickness and rubbing it until it was mirror smooth. Then the artists experimented with pressing various objects into the clay: "pineapple, knots, spoons, different strings, all we could find in the studio and its surrounding shops," de Jonge says. Pouring rubber over the surface, the designers would look at the results and evaluate them before trying something else.
"Ultimately, we chose to work with haberdashery," de Jonge says, referring to the small sewing items sold by a haberdasher, such as beads, buttons, needles and ribbons. "You will see the very detailed wire work in the rubber, the weaving, the fineness of the design." Not that everything they tried was a success. "A lot of objects worked better than others," de Jonge admits. "It depends on the thickness, the smoothness, how big the object is. Of course, it really depends on the end result you are looking for." For Roos and de Jonge, that result was a design that blended the understated elegance of white damask linen with the ornate detailing of Persian carpets.
The designers started by pressing various objects into a layer of clay spread across a tabletop, then pouring rubber over the surface and evaluating the results.
Eventually, they worked their way up to an elaborate arrangement of thread, ribbons, beads and other objects.
Using rope and other small bits, they pressed the pieces into the clay along with adorned trims and edge detailing, known as fournituren. Once the silicone rubber was poured, the designers let the material set before removing it from the clay mold, being careful not to damage the mold. In cases where the casting got caught, they were able to easily tear through the rubber to free it. After completing their final prototype, aptly named Strings and Things, deJongeKalff reached out to Droog, which fell in love with the design and started producing it in white silicone.
So where does Dürer come in? After Droog and the Rijksmuseum finalized their partnership for Milan, Droog went back to deJongeKalff and commissioned a special edition of the Table Skin. Pulling the Dürer woodcut Pattern from the Series of Six Knots from the Rijksmuseum's collection, Droog asked deJongeKalff to translate a tablecloth specifically from the enduring wood carving. The studio reused techniques from its earlier explorations and invented some new ones, like using metal plunger chains and balls to lay out Dürer's design. The final piece was shown as part of a dining room display at the Milan exhibition—and it can now be purchased online for 295 euros, or about $408.