By Tess McCabe
18 Chairs Escape is a Pop-Up event at MIDF ’08. The brief, given to 18 emerging and established Melbourne-based designers across a range of disciplines, is to take Thonet’s No. 18 Chair and modify it in any way they see fit.
Sounds exciting. But before you see some of the surprising interpretations of this brief, a little history lesson:
The Thonet number 18 Chair is considered to be the most successful of Michael Thonet’s experiments with bending steamed wood to create furniture. He was kind of the Uri Geller of wood, except that instead of using his mind and ‘magic’, he used his mind and explored the technical properties of wood and how to work with it’s limitations. In the mid 1800s in Germany, Thonet and his sons began to produce the innovative “bentwood” furniture, which became known for being practical and inexpensive. The masses love that combo.
Today the Thonet #18 chair is considered one of the world’s most successful chair designs and it is synonymous with a high-quality craftsmanship. You’ve probably sat in a fair few yourself over your lifetime, they are that common.
18 Chairs Escape isn’t about fixing what isn’t broke, but rather the artists and designers are using this blank canvas, already embued with design beauty, and giving it a quirky personality. The results are surprising. More on that later…