The prolific Czech design duo on influences, inspirations and combining function with form
by Adam Stech in Design on 24 April 2014
Having met while studying at The Academy of Art, Architecture and Design in Prague several years ago, Jan Plecháč and Henry Wielgus now work together on various kinds of projects including furniture, lighting, product and interior design. But being in the heart of Europe doesn't mean it's all easy breezy, "Prague is a really nice city—everybody wants to travel here—but for design business it's not the best place to be. Still we are on the periphery of design production. But on the other hand, production costs are much lower than in rest of Europe and you have really well-skilled craftsmen here." That said, the duo is prolific and has collaborated with brands such as Nike and Heineken and has created installations for notable galleries and salons.
Like many designers, Plecháč adores using metal—his thesis furniture collection called "Icons" boasted bright, twisted and tangled armchairs made from the material. The range—intended for outdoor use—was inspired by designs including Gerrit Rietveld's Red Blue Chair, Danish designer Verner Panton's S-shaped Panton Chair and Josef Hoffmann's Kubus armchair, and acted as a kind of tribute to history of design. "Thanks to my presentation at Salone Satellite in Milan in 2011, my 'Icons' collection gained a lot of attention and I received some very interesting proposals later," says Plecháč.
A significant moment in Plecháč's professional life was meeting legendary Giulio Cappellini who invited Plecháč and Wielgus to take part in his Milan talent show "Cappellini Next" the next year. "Giulio was a great impulse for us, because we suddenly realized that we can make a piece of furniture and attract a lot of attention," says Wielgus. The upshot of the event was "Circle," the duo's armchair made from of steel wire circles.
With impetus increasing, the studio created new products for iconic Czech glass company, Lasvit. Probably their most famous work to date is the first collection (from 2013) of chandeliers for Lasvit. "Called 'Neverending Glory,' the collection traverses the diversity of crystal chandeliers to a simple outline which symbolically creates a never-ending shape in its rotation. It is approaching the phenomenon of specific chandeliers which fulfils the distinct role of cherries on a richly decorated cake," says the pair. The five stunning, glass pieces were inspired by the shapes of crystal chandeliers of famous concert halls like Milan's La Scala, Paris' Palais Garnier and New York's Metropolitan Opera. This year, the designers presented their second collection for Lasvit called "Moulds." It includes a series of chandeliers resembling a process of glass moulding and it was on display at Milan Design Week recently.
As well as collaborations with the companies, Plecháč and Wielgus create their own independent collections. Of particular note is the "Building Kit" series 01 and 02, which are comprised of easily assembled furniture collections made from of wooden balls, sticks and metal connectors. The shelving system from Building Kit 01—a simple but striking piece—is now being produced by Danish company Menu.
Their latest in-house collection from the talented couple is "Ondulé," a series of low, metal tables constructed from undulated sheets of metal and glass top. "One of the major benefits of the 'Ondulé' collection is economy flat-packing; enabling easy storage and, naturally, transport," say Plecháč and Wielgus. The design team continues to grow and design, focusing on the practical facets of production and combining them with their desire and need for creative freedom.
Lasvit image courtesy of Filip Slapal, "Ondulé" image courtesy of Martin Chumall, all others by Michal Šeba courtesy of Urban Expedition
A Williamsburg company that builds custom bikes to last a lifetime
by Cool Hunting Video in Design on 23 April 2014
Thomas Callahan, owner of Horse Cycles, invited CH to his Williamsburg workshop to show us around and explain a little about his impressive craft. A sculpture major in art school, Callahan had a knack for fixing his friends' bikes—and that hobby quickly shifted into a career building bikes from scratch. Callahan's intention is creating the perfect sized bike for a customer; encouraging the new owner to treasure it and ride it forever.
The custom furniture-maker launches mini-production runs of his favorite pieces
by Fiona Killackey in Design on 23 April 2014
CH first spoke with Costa Mesa native, Sean Woolsey back in early 2012 when we discovered his pipe lamps, sheet metal paintings and love of the outdoors on Instagram. After three years, the artist and self-taught furniture maker has decided to create mini-production runs of his favorite pieces, rather than purely 100% custom designs. The first is the Haack Table, commissioned by and named after his good friend, photographer Ryan Haack.
Regarding the design's beginnings, Woolsey says, "I have been working with wood and steel for a while now, and I’ve recently gotten into complicated and more geometric-shaped base designs. I wanted to make a dining table design that could easily fit six people and that could double as a desk." The designer is currently taking orders for the piece and is open to alternative colors, but the original design has an American Black Walnut top "and has a laser-engraved leather patch embedded. The base is a one-inch square tubing, with a powder-coated finish."
Woolsey's process is meticulous and time-consuming, with plenty of craftsmanship involved. "I hand-shape the top edges of the table with a spokeshave and various hand-planes to get a organic-shaped round over on the top and bottom edge. Seeing the table up close, it's very obvious that it was shaped and made by human hands—and I take huge pride in that."
A true creator, he is not only happy to customize the Haack table according to orders, but also considering crafting different iterations of the piece, having it be "morphed" into a coffee table, dining table or a ping-pong table.
Woolsey firmly believes there is an increasing move towards handmade and handcrafted goods—not just furniture, "I feel like it is at the apex at the moment and will really be interesting to see what happens next. People want to know where things come from more than ever now, and know who made them. People are intrigued by process and story, which is very empowering for individuals who hand make things right now. Then you have this other aspect of how DIY our culture is now, lots of people are even making their own things, educating themselves through online courses or videos online, and getting their own hands dirty."
On the creative process, the designer's mantra is simple, and he offers it to everybody—not just those in the industry, "Keep your overhead low, trust your gut, and follow your heart."
Images courtesy of Ryan Haack