Okay, these can be pricey, but if you find Wendell Castle a bit overwrought, check out Jolyon Yates' furniture designs, hand made in Northumberland. We asked Jolyon for a bit more info about the pieces, and then asked him if we could paste his comments right here.
I have been working in the car and the boat industries for many years as well as in University, teaching. The ODE chairs are kind of a reaction to loveless mass production--the rather lofty ideal emanating from the suspicion that when we mass-copy an object, the love that goes into designing such a piece is largely lost.
More photos and text after the jump.
I may get over it : )
Anyway, perhaps they're as much for my satisfaction and re-inspiration as for anyone else!
The environmental impact of designing and making things these days bares heavy on designers. The success for which we strive in production can feel like a failure in environmental terms, particularly considering the compromises made along the way just to be economically viable. And let's be honest about it, a goodly proportion of those precious natural resources as well as that powerful creative energy we nurture in our designers is still destined to pollute, to poison and to fill holes.
That's not to say that low volume production is environmentally friendly, it's not! You're just looking for a better return on much fewer objects, which will by nature have less impact.
It's terrifying also that it's become almost impossible to make everyday products in the West. We ship our orders, increasingly our physical skills and know-how and ultimately our wealth to the East.
Chairs are a terrific subject to study as they take the designer back to design fundaments. Does it work? Is it beautiful? Can I make it ? (The order will depend on the designer.)
Questions like "do I need to make 10,000 units to break even?" or h"ow can I be assured of the quality I need from 9000 miles away?" are happily not questions to be faced up to in this particular project.
The other thing about working on chairs is that you don't have dozens of other buggers telling you what to do; on a largely craft basis at least, designing and making a chair is a very manageable project.
The problem with working on a craft basis then is that whilst design intent makes it through to the object close to 100 % of the time--which is good--you can really only produce relatively low volumes, at least to begin with.
Happily it is in itself is a design niche, though the products are, by necessity "functional sculpture", and I'm afraid not so cheap. Prices start from GBP450 to GBP4500.
Is this elitist, yes! Are our consumer wants as human beings elitist, yes they sometimes are!
There are plans afoot to mold some stools however. They don't seem as reliant on the process and natural materials for their charm, and as long as the design is right and the technology is simple, we can oversee it locally and still feel the love.