International Focus on Furniture

International Focus on Furniture

From chairs that play on the notion of over-permed hair to lighting that evokes the narrow slot canyons of the American Southwest, new works by RISD Furniture Design majors are expected to attract plenty of attention at the2011 International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York City this weekend. The dozen undergraduate and graduate students selected to participate in the high-profile professional confab are showcasing pieces that directly address issues of sustainability while pushing the boundaries of design.

Called Recyclable Composites, the RISD show features benches, tables, chairs and light fixtures made with Twintex®, a flexible glass-fiber filament impregnated with polypropylene. The hybrid material, an advanced composite that hardens through a reversible heat treatment, offers an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional composites, which rely heavily on resins that can’t be recycled. By contrast, Twintex products can be recycled by separating the polypropylene and glass-fiber through heat.

Wrapping and layering the material around wooden molds, students experimented with the malleability of the material to create stretched or sunken forms that are sculptural in nature, but also reference domestic crafts such as knitting and embroidery.Misha Kahn BFA 11 FD says that his table, supported by a web of Twintex, was “inspired by a scene in Entrapment in which Sean Connery makes Catherine Zeta-Jones climb through a web of yarn.”

Jiwon Choi BFA 11 FD used the advanced composite to create a chandelier she calls Light Scribble. “Inspired by scribbles on paper, I used this industrial material to design a luxurious hanging light – a chandelier that combines decorative line work and functional light into one,” she says. “Since Twintex becomes rigid when heated, it provides a structure for the light fixture while still looking like a three-dimensional drawing in the air.”

Eun San Ernie Lee BFA 12 FD, on the other hand, experimented with the properties of Twintex to create a feeling of “fluffiness” in his playful Perm Chair. “When heated, the melted polypropylene creates slippery fibers that droop and end up looking like loosely curled hair,” he says.

By presenting their work at one of the leading professional forums in the field, students gain invaluable experience in interacting with buyers, gallery representatives, industry specialists, experienced designers and the general public. This type of engagement with professional practice and exposure to various aspects of the furniture design industry are a cornerstone of the pedagogical approach in the department.

The ICFF runs from May 14–17 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, 655 West 34th Street in Manhattan.

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