Curious Trends

25/09/2011

Contemporary curiosities: does size matter?


With so many inventive home furnishing and decorative accessories designs on the market, designers have to work harder to distinguish themselves from the crowd. In recent years there’s been an emphasis on limited edition, collectable pieces that designers promote as ‘design art’. However, with the growing interest in curiosities and collecting, contemporary designers are going out of their way to ensure that their creations have the curiosity factor. For some that means making their designs especially large – or creating tiny sized pieces to attract interest.


Some may feel the urge to say “get your feet off the table,” when Sean Sutcliffe jumps up to illustrate the sheer size and solidity of Benchmark’s gigantic 11 meter long table. The longest planked oak log that any of their sources in the timber trade has ever known, they had to cut holes through the walls on either side of their workshop to accommodate it. The minimalist frame under the table is a result of inventive design and an intelligent use of materials. It just about fitted into the back of an articulated lorry for transporting to the Design Junction show, where it was taken into the building through a large window.

The naturally beautiful, hand-felled piece of wood speaks for itself – but does size really matter? A bigger product doesn’t always equate to a higher price. And with financial concerns affecting the corporate world, is there a ready market for this sort of design?

Stephen Johnson’s giant sized ‘Happy Happy’ rosettes are certainly large at 70 cm in diameter. But there’s little explanation for these mirror polished aluminium bows, except that they are supposed to make you happy. Are these enlarged versions of common objects curiosities? Or even art?

Michel Froment’s two man tall, fried egg (seen at London Tent) is certainly more fun than your average standing lamp, but would make a good investment? And what about Spanish sculptor Maximo Riera’s kitsch animal chair collection (on show at 100% Design)?

The highest technology (CNC) and engineering has been utilized to develop and manufacture an exact replica of the artist's artwork. More than 30 professionals from different companies have been involved in the process, which has been developed entirely in the United Kingdom.

The chairs are made in dense polyurethane (plastic) and in some cases, such as for The Octopus and The Rhino, an inner frame along the body was needed to support the weight and reinforce the balance of its composition. Every piece is manufactured to order, taking an average of 9 weeks to produce, as it is assembled, sanded and painted by hand. More creatures are planned, but just three limited edition species are currently available: a rhinoceros, an octopus and a walrus.

Curiosities don’t have to be large, or expensive. These ‘Monstify’ crocheted eyeballs by Ayda Anlagan, seen at Designersblock, certainly have the curiosity factor. They may not be particularly useful, but they take up much less space, and are a cheaper way of obtaining amusment than the items above.

Others, like artist Lisa Swerling and jewellery designer Helen Noakes (showing at Origin contemporary craft fair) are also celebrating small things. Helen encases her tiny sculptures of people inside resin to create pieces for her quirky jewellery range.


And Lisa Swerling’s Glass Cathedrals are a series of artboxes containing uniquely tiny worlds, “each making their own small statement on our complicated lives, for instance” Hello ‘ello ‘ello is an ‘appreciation of England ‘as a rare island of relatively liberal values and common sense.’

The concept for Lisa’s work comes from an episode in the Peter Carey book Oscar and Lucinda – when a life-size glass church, made by missionaries in the Australian outback, is seen floating down a river. A trapped dragonfly collides against the walls trying to escape, blind to the presence of glass. “There is a parallel collision between the seriousness with which we take our lives, and the limitations of our understanding. The vast majority of us can empathise with the figures’ existential struggles. And also laugh.”



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