Design daily ran a post called World Wide Weaving back in November 2013 and it was obvious that it was about time D.d did an update on all the wonderful things woven from rattan, wicker, Abaca and of course twisted paper, that have been released in the last couple of years. The use of woven natural materials continue to gain traction as materials for contemporary design led objects, modernising the image of such materials as a quaint anomaly of a bygone colonial era.
As a way to bring character and a hand crafted feel to an interior, woven natural fibres are hard to beat. Their rustic, slightly misshapen forms are immediately appealing whether as homewares, objects, lighting, furniture or floor rugs. As a foil to hard-edged contemporary architecture objects made from natural fibres are perfect. Brands such as Gebrüder Thonet Vienna (GTV), above, have been busily reinventing not the bentwood genre with designers such as Front, GamFratesi and Nigel Coates but also the beauty of woven cane that is probably best known in the ubiquitous 'Cesca' chair designed by Marcel Breuer from 1928.
The tightly gridded split cane material has elasticity so it is a comfortable seating material but when properly made (as in the case of GTV) is highly durable. The unique quality of all woven fibres is that it is a combination of solids and voids that give an impression of a blurry translucency. Its a romantic material - neither hard not soft.
One of the most recent additions to this growing category is the Moving Tatami range by French designer José Lévy for Japanese building supplies company Daiken. Lévy has designed a complete range of furniture using Tatami: sofa, armchair, bench seats, shelving, side tables, stools, and storage cabinets from Tatami.
Generally thought of as a floor covering, Daiken requested a change of function in order to reveal this material in a new light and move the perception of it away from its traditional roots. In response Lévy has delivered something highly restrained and quite beautiful.
For those of you who aren't all that familiar with the ins-and-outs of Tatami, it is a traditional Japanese flooring material made from Igusa rush (outer layer) and rice straw (the inner soft bit) that comes in a specific size of 180 x 90 cm. Tatami was once so prevalent in Japanese culture that it remains a unit of measure when assessing the size of building interiors.
José Lévy’s interest in Japan and its arts & crafts in particular, started with Lévy's grandfather Anatole, who in the 60's founded Judogi, a business manufacturing kimonos, hakama and katana. ‘I encountered Japan early on thanks to him. It was my first experience of anything exotic, of some other place, of the ‘unusual yet beautiful. In the 70s, people travelled less and Japan seemed very, very far away,’ recalls José Lévy.
In the hands of Lévy, tatami sometimes forms the seating material and at others the wall and door surface. In the armchair and sofa the wrap-around structure is encased in tatami lending the entire structure a soft textural feel desire the upright and angular forms. The range possesses a formal quality where tatami, precious woods, traditional high-gloss lacquer and waxed, light wood are combined with sensitivity.
Another new comer which involves wicker as a core ingredient is the #80 series of sofa and armchair by Danish designer Camilla Aggestrup. The fine steel frame is a continuation of a previous design also called #80 which was produced only in black. With the new design the seat material changes from woven fabric a la Alvar Aalto's 406 lounge chair, to split cane. The look is transparent and ethereal.
With a much more rough and ready feel, French label Alki has also delved into the traditional use of woven natural fibres - in this instance sliced chestnut wood. Their Zumitz Collection of baskets and screens are based on traditional designs using methods found in the Basque country around the foothills of the Pyrenees. Still used by bakers, fishermen and small farmers to this day, the traditional chestnut wood items are extremely light and incredibly durable and it is this and the wonderful texture that the method achieves that was the attractive to Alki's design team.
Designed by Iratzoki & Lizaso the 'Zumitz' objects are made, at least in part, by local basket craftsmen. In this instance the the technique of weaving chestnut wood strips (known as ‘zumitzak’ in the Basque language) is used on a tubular metal structure. This revised structural element means that new typologies are possible beyond the simple basket.
Strangely it's the basket or rather handbag-esque shape of Denis Abalos' Jacaranda pendant light that Design daily and many others find so appealing. Actually based on the shape of the Jacaranda tree seed pod, the light is a reflection of Abalos' Filipino heritage but in a wonderfully unique shape. The combination of rattan and woven cane is still in prototype stage but Abalos is exploring the possibility of developing the idea across a number of lighting typologies.
Japanese designer Nendo is always full of surprises. Usually a designer of fine optically complex pieces he was approached by Singaporean brand Industry+ to come up with something which combined modern manufacturing and collaborative craftsmanship for the first Asian Maison & Objet in March 2015. The 'Tokyo Tribal' collection was the rather rustic result.
Consisting of 22 pieces the collection takes everyday basketry and jams it into furniture design with table legs appearing to grow baskets while stools incorporated the same as handy under seat storage. Chair backs are made from two shallow baskets joined together to create a supportive but flexible component. Despite being manufactured in the Philippines from rattan, the overall look is really quite African with dark zig-zag bands breaking up expanses of natural fibre.
The collection uses solid oak for the main frames and volcanic sand plaster for the top board finishes. Bamboo rattan, hand-woven by local artisans in the Philippines is used for all the woven elements. Bamboo’s elastic properties make it ideal for seats and back-supports but also forms an essential design feature with table legs going right through a layer of bamboo, or the entire table being encased in rattan. Melding ‘furniture’ and 'interior goods’ into one, Nendo creates a family of forms with a great sense of personality.
During Milan Design Week 2015 at the event known as Ventura Lambrate, the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (KADK) exhibited work by students in an exhibition called NØW! that explored woven materials and possible new forms. Shown below are just two of around 45 prototypes that were created specially for the event by students from the three master programmes at the Institute of Architecture and Design.
Lights made from natural woven fibre have been a very popular part of the Ikea range for many years, offering a lovely sense of texture and the handmade among all the flatpack MDF, laminate and lacquer. In early 2016 Studio Ilse Crawford created an extensive range of 30 new Items for the Swedish giant with the 'Sinnerlig' pendants (shown below) joining tables, benches and stools of cork, ceramic jugs, plant pots and glass storage containers.
While cane and many other fibres lend themselves to being woven directly into a shape - either on a former or around the frame of a chair, the materials can also be pre-woven on a machine and offered in sheet form. This technique is commonly used on chairs with split cane seats to reduce cost. The sheet material is then fitted to objects using a fine strip of beading - usually rattan. The 'Libelle' shelving by Pietro Russo for Baxter (shown below) features this type of material - not to reduce costs but to get a very flat, taught surface that is suitable for the task of supporting objects and books. The 'D270' chair on the right by Gio Ponti uses wicker that is woven directly onto the chair's frame. Designed in 1970, the 'D270' is a folding design that is also available as a dining chair with lower back.
A couple of other recent chair designs that use rattan as their principle material are the 'Frames' chair by Jaime Hayon for Spanish brand Expormim and the 'Lukis' chair by Abie Abdillah for Cappellini. The former was released in 2015 and has subsequently won several awards including the award for Excellent Product Design in the 2016 edition of the prestigious German Design Awards. The chair utilises a rattan frame and woven cane seat and back in a tight geometric pattern. The 'Lukis' chair by Indonesian designer Abie Abdillah was launched by Cappellini during Milan Design Week in April 2016. The chair uses a combination of rubber wood for the frame and thick 'cords' of rattan for the seat and back. Both designs convey a relaxed spirit within a contemporary framework.
Rattan and other woven materials have long been used in interiors for their textural interplay. Swiss designer Anouk-Eva Meyer has used the material to extend the sculptural qualities of a glass perfume diffuser and created mushroom-like domes that combine open and closed areas of weaving. This approach seems perfectly in tune with the objects role as a diffuser as the structure appears to be directing the perfume into the air. The glass is precise, the rattan beautifully irregular.
It might come as a surprise but woven paper can be a fairly robust material. The Danes use what is called woven paper-cord on many of their classic mid-century seating designs and the Americans are familiar with it through its use in the outdoor furniture of Lloyd Loom. In Finland twisted paper is used for rugs. These are woven very flat so are more like a bamboo mat than a woollen tufted rug and have the thickness of an Indian Dhurrie.
The 'Squareplay' rug (shown below) is designed by Ritva Puotila in conjunction with the Woodnotes design team. Woven from paper yarn, the rug's pattern is based around a row of squares. Available in widths of 80 to 110 cm and the sizes of the squares are 80 – 110 cm respectively, several rugs can be placed side by side in order to cover a bigger area. The 'Squareplay' rug comes in 24 colours and acts as a flooring centrepiece. Woodnotes is a Finish company that specialises in paper products, and paper rugs in particular.
Madrid based designer Alvaro Catalán de Ocón founded PET LAMP back in 2011 as a vehicle to help continue traditional waving skills in Columbia by providing a global market and a contemporary aesthetic. Due to the overwhelming success of the project, Catalán de Ocón has set up similar projects in Chile and most recently in Ethiopia and Addis Ababa in particular.