What happens when you give 19 different artists and designers some building supplies and ask them to make a chair? All the strange, funny and brilliant variations on seating you can imagine.
The 19 Chairs charity project, organized by London designers Tom and Will Butterfield, began in early 2020 when the two brothers created 19 chair designs of their own using nothing but 1”x1” wood and screws. The second phase of the project introduces 19 new perspectives, and the designers were given 19 days to build and deliver their creations to 19 locations.
“Reacting to the damage of COVID-19, 19 Chairs is a celebration. In aid of Age UK and Resourcing Racial Justice, our 19 handmade chairs have journeyed thousands of miles to be reworked by leading artists and designers. As an ode to this gloriously common furniture piece, stage 1 of the project saw us design and build a unique chair a day over 19 days of lockdown. With most businesses shut, we couldn’t be fussy with materials. 27 millimeter square-section timber and 40 millimeter wood screws would do the job. We learnt two things: the bare essentials are all you need to create a unified collection… and our 27 times table.”
“And with that, stage 2 began. The chairs were shipped worldwide to 19 celebrated creatives who had volunteered to become their custodians. We asked them to ‘reinvent, reimagine or redesign your chair with an older person in mind.’ The brief was a nod to the outstanding work of Age UK, connecting our collaborators with those experiencing the isolating effects of the pandemic most deeply. On their behalf, the designers cut loose, then packaged their creations ready for return.”
Some participants focused on comfort, like design studio Isabel + Helen, which built a cocooning machine to wrap the chair in yarn, and Emma Brewin, who clad hers in fluffy shag pillows. Others, like Morag Myserscough, applied their signature design style to the project. Her “Sun Chair” sees the wooden frame painted neon yellow, wrapped with colorful streamers and adorned with a giant pink circular backrest.
Es Devlin took a creative approach with “The Norns,” using the components to create a combination stool and lamp that “invokes the telling of bedtime stories – the ritual of passing meaning from one generation to the next.”
The more humorous designs include Harry Grundy’s not-so-pleasant “The Commode” cactus chair and Benjamin Edgar’s “Tired, but Quite Optimistic.”
“A portrait of a moment in time. The seating surface “droops” in gradient from rested to exhausted, a result of both stress and progress. All rendered in brilliantly optimistic blue.”
Artist Henry Gorse took the part about an “older person” to heart, and this was the result: the wooden chair base covered in dozens of Werther’s Originals candies to create a “massage chair” that could only ever be temporary.