A closer look at the 6 finalists of GRAY Awards 2020 Product Design: Lighting/Furniture category.
The Weaving the Light collection proposes a series of lamps whose structure inherently glows from the textile itself. The lamps, consisting of electroluminescent (EL) wire and traditional Andean
crochet weaving juxtaposes state of the art technology with traditional indigenous techniques. The collection includes a long two-meter snake lamp and a classic table lamp.
There is nothing luxurious about the transparent plastic EL wire, a novelty lighting technology typically seen in the rave aesthetic of hyped-up sports cars and homemade Halloween costumes. Our lamps transform this flashy aesthetic into a surprisingly elegant texture effect by adding fine nylon weaving. Crafted by hand with open stitch-work and Andean pattern, the intentional exposure of the shiny EL wire shows off a rich tonal contrast of silky white nylon against the transparent cased-copper. The unexpected contrast of these two very different materials for lighting creates a fresh and playful interaction between textiles and technology.
AN AUSTERE GLOW - PROPOSAL
The simplicity of these lamps is striking at first glance. The vacant interior of the lamp body defies the expectation that a lamp should integrate multiple components: base/socket/assembly/accessories. Typically, both textiles and lighting objects require assembly to form an object, whereas this Andean crochet technique allows for skillfully constructed and seamless 3-D shapes.
The glowing lamps apply traditional craft practices in a refreshingly simple blend of hi- and low-technology, unusual to the lighting category. The effect of the exposed electroluminescent wire suggests new spaces in which to pursue Constructivist concepts, and better yet, the proposal is inspired by ancient indigenous methods. With only two components involved — the EL wire as textile weft and the nylon warp — the EL wire is both the source of light and foundation of the structure
The soft glow of these lamps is pleasing for both evening and bedtime, making an ideal night light for infants and young children. The tactile nature of the lamp is meant to be touched and played with,
creating an emotional connection with the product as you make it your own. The flexibility of the two-meter woven snake lamp can be knotted, twisted, suspended from its brass hook, adaptable for any
The Nylon material is one of the strongest fibres available; integrated with the flexible EL wire, which has a long life span and extremely low temperature, the resulting textile is safe to use on any surface. It is easy to wash thanks to the protective casing on the wire. Lastly, in comparison to typical lamps, “Weaving the Light” will not break even with forceful impact.
GLOWING FABRIC AND OBJECT
By approaching the technology as a foundational element of the textile itself, rather than applying technology to a finished textile, we have constructed a fully glowing fabric. The weaving technique even
benefits from the solid plastic casing of the EL wire in forming the shape of the lamp. The simplicity of weaving with a single wire makes a product that artisans can complete with minimal tools and
components. This design solution extrapolates the unique functionality of this particular type of indigenous weaving in harmony with the properties of the electroluminescent cable.
ANCIENT KNOWLEDGE PRESERVATION - OUR IMPACT
The beautiful handwork particular to the northern highlands of Peru is a unique, innovative blend of crochet and backstrap loom weaving. However, with modernization, Andean weaving skills have
become undervalued in recent years. As traditional cultural pursuits increasingly fail to be economically viable, indigenous knowledge is being lost at concerning rates.
Our sustainable vision pursues opportunities to validate the handwork of vulnerable communities. A focus on expanding into new industries such as lighting allows indigenous artisans a chance to
bring collaborative ideas to the design process and create products that they can resolve independently. Our commitment to our communities includes developing long-term infrastructure,
confidence building, organizational skills, leadership, and technical design. As the lamps are an equal blend of traditional knowledge and contemporary materials, our design perspective allows us to explore fresh opportunities to help level the playing field for artisans. The intrinsic value woven into these lamps provides the end-user with a piece of Andean magic!
Mauricio Navarro, product designer
Jenny Boucher, textile designer
Vicky Rojas, artisan weaver
Rocio Castillo, artisan weaver
Date of Completion: June 2020
Finalist: Oxbend Collection
Justin Nelson slowly began the design process for the Oxbend collection just under a year before bringing it to fruition in January 2020. Born from a desire to create a seating collection that is comfortable, organic, and elegant in its simplicity, the Oxbend collection incorporates subtle hand-shaped tubular curves and classic wedged tenon leg joinery. Furniture included in this collection includes an occasional chair, a bench, and a barstool. Each piece is available in walnut, charcoal ash, or white ash.
The typical response when people sit in the chair is "Oh... it's so comfortable..." which is usually said with a bit of surprise, likely due to the minimalism of the design. Nelson worked with a physical therapist during the early prototyping phase to make modifications based on comfort and spine health. The biggest change that resulted was a slight downward angle to the seat from back to front, instead of the opposite, which is common in Windsor chairs and had originally seemed more intuitive to Nelson. The result was an immediately noticeable improvement in comfort and posture.
As with the rest of Fernweh Woodworking's furniture pieces, the solid wood Oxbend Collection is made from renewable hardwoods. They also use a hardy, earth-friendly, VOC-free plant-based finish on all furniture pieces.
In Nelson's approach to furniture design, he aims for pieces to look and feel light and minimalist, but with the use of strong joinery so that each piece will stand up to heavy use. "Because we live in world of cheap, mass-produced furniture, people underestimate the strength of classic joinery and hardwoods," writes Nelson.
The design aesthetic, joinery, and sustainability of the Oxbend Collection all work together to fit these pieces squarely into the company's mission: to do their small part to keep the craft of woodworking not
only alive, but fresh.
Design Team: Justin Nelson
Cat Sink (Physical Therapist, consultation on dimensions for comfort and spine health)
Date of Completion: January 2020
The Pandarine fuses the luxurious comfort of a bed with the versatility of a modular sofa in an elegant and versatile design.
Customizable metal-hinged backrests and armrests, which are either cylindrical or a reclining pillow design, can be adjusted individually to transform the sofa into a unified, mattress-like surface. Backrests can serve as huge, soft pillows. Constructed using a combination of Nozag springs, foam, and wadding, the sofa is designed to provide exceptional comfort in a variety of sitting or lying positions.
The Pandarine —available in two- or three-seater versions with additional chaise lounges and corner modules, and in a range of textiles and configurations—offers the flexibility to work well in a variety of private and public spaces.
Design Team: Inga Sempe
Date of Completion: August 2020
There is, as they say, more than one way to skin a cat. And like taxidermy, woodworking is no different. For as many actual woodworkers as you’ll find; you’ll find as many ways of woodworking. For some, it’s a means to an end in an effort to get the job done quickly and for others, it can be a lifelong love affair with joinery and complicated techniques like steam bending and veneer pressing.
Kate Duncan, positioned well towards the love affair end of the spectrum, has spent the last 20 years honing her craft and after launching a prolific nine-piece collection in 2016 she was disappointed that very few people were actually buying her work. After consulting with a variety of industry experts, the consensus was that it was beautiful, yes, but priced too high and designed too commonplace. At a
crossroads, Duncan had to find a way to bring the cost down or bring the aesthetic quality up. Not one to cut corners, she set out to design a new fashion-forward collection in 2018.
After a deep dive, nearing obsession, into the history of Brutalist Architecture, Duncan designed a new collection riffing on these so-called concrete giants. Starting with some pencil drawings and playful
toy blocks, shapes began to emerge and pieces began to form. But this wasn’t the kind of furniture she was used to creating and her usual bag of woodworking tricks wasn’t enough to bring her ideas to
life. After nearly a year of failed attempts, Duncan finally developed the winning techniques to create her beloved ‘ribbed’ language. Round on the outside, but angled or coopered on the inside, Duncan’s ribs are a beautiful nightmare. Each individual rib is picked up and put down over 20 times throughout the manufacturing process. Each one is sanded and pre-finished before being glued with a center
spine into pairs, and then clusters of four, before it’s finally strapped together in a barrel form. A set of ribs to make a barrel can take up to two full days to manufacture and even longer to assemble into the
barrel itself. It is time-consuming but the end result is beautiful and built to last for generations.
Once the manufacturing woes were addressed, [Blind] incorporated these vertical rounds into her work. Starting with a simple table base, the language evolved into this asymmetrical writing desk. Paired with solid wood construction, a bent lamination at one end, leather veneer and meticulous dovetails; every square inch of the Ribbed Desk has been carefully considered.
Duncan’s Ribbed Desk was designed and manufactured in 2019 while she held a fellowship position at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, Maine. Promoted as a place for woodworkers to grow, learn, and build community she was thrilled upon acceptance to the prestigious program but quickly discovered that things weren’t as they seemed. The school, led and staffed predominantly by men with rigid ideas about woodworking, was not a place that welcomed her. She was met with resistance; denied access to classes and materials and largely ignored by her peers. It was clear to her that her time at the CFC was to be experienced alone as a solo maker. Armed with a pair of headphones, she did what she does best: she built. Over the course of her five-month stay at the CFC she made a dining table, this desk, and also a dresser. In May of that year, she exhibited it all at ‘Next Level’ as apart of NYC Design Week. Despite the discrimination she faced at the CFC, Duncan did what she set out to do and created an entirely new fashion-forward body of work. And the cherry on top? The collection was incredibly well received: while in New York, her work was acquired by two showrooms (Dmitiry in Manhattan and Salon in Boston) and her dresser was sold to a well-known art collector.
Nowadays, her struggles with disappointing sales and discrimination seem far away. Working out of her new Toronto studio, she’s got enough work to employ a small team of dedicated makers who all seem to love the craft as much as she does.
Design Team: Kate Duncan
Date of Completion: April 2019
Is it a table or is it a pouf? It’s both! Nestled together, the two parts of Toof offer a fun take on a rounded side table with an enticing mix of soft and hard materials. Pull them apart and an ottoman emerges while the table remains.
With a design inspired by the pull top of a vintage Coke can, Toof embraces complex curves in a spirited mix of colors and textiles. Toof is available in 10 vibrant colorways including gold, salt, and pepper, red, purple, indigo, grey, dark purple, teal, yellow and black. The base is made from sheen powder-coated metal and the pouf incorporates an array of textured textiles, including alpaca, wool, linen, mohair, velvet, and boucle.
Tanja Hinder, Marrimor Founder
Lauren Bugliarisi, Creative Director
Carl Ostberg, Photography
Lucas Finlay, Photography
Burnkit, Branding and Collateral
Date of Completion: August 2020
Portable fixture Wick was designed with the belief that light is meant to be shared: it is the connecting tool that humanizes moments of our lives. Creating a place to gather, Wick is designed to be a companion, joining in adventures and creating togetherness and ambiance, serving as candlelight for the modern era.
"Wick was prompted by the things we value most at Graypants: gathering, connection, and ambiance," they write in their entry. "In Scandinavia, they call it hygge, in our Amsterdam studio, they call it gezelligheid. It captures an idea of enjoying life simply, with intention and warmth at the center. We
believe design can aid in this pursuit, and that good design should come with us anywhere."
Graypants wanted to create a fixture that would feel both portable and chic, weighted enough to ground anywhere but light enough for kids to carry. The design concept started in the same place ambiance often does: with a classic candle. There is something about the form of the candle holder that immediately invites picking it up, ingraining the idea that Wick is a companion, a part of morning and evening, a functional and elegant enhancement to the everyday, everywhere.
Liberating beautiful lighting from a cord or plug, Wick travels from the bedside table to the garden, kitchen, campsite, and so on, as a portable, mood-setting light, lasting up to 100 hours per charge. Combining the romance of a candle with the utility of a flashlight, Wick’s three lighting levels enable it to be used both as a bright reading light and as a means to create an intimate atmosphere. With a maximum brightness over twice as strong as a traditional candle, but without the risk of fire, Wick can be used both inside and outdoors, by children and adults alike.
A smooth touch sensor controls the warm 1W, 2600K LED light Wick shines, toggling 3 lighting levels, and offering a pulse mode that mirrors the soft flicker of a candle. The Wick is constructed with an
aluminum body, plated in satin brass, with an ergonomic carrying ring referencing classic candleholders. Wick has an USB-C rechargeable battery within, with a battery life of over a hundred
hours on the lowest setting, with a minimum of 12 hours at its brightest. Timeless and practical, Wick adapts to and fits a broad variety of contexts, from an intimate home to a bustling restaurant patio, to a
warm office kitchen.
"Graypants designs objects that fit into the texture of the design landscape," they write, "and with the renewed emphasis on making the everyday special that recent times have brought, Wick is a heartwarming answer to the moment."
Seth Grizzle, lead
Photography: Graypants, internal team
Video: Shep Films
Date of Completion: July 2020
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