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Mud Furniture

by Brian Fichtner in Design on 26 August 2009

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Jennifer Anderson's "Mud Series" collection translates iconic chairs into steel and mud. The studies of classics—an Eames LCW, a Thonet Café Chair, a Wegner Wishbone Chair—resemble the artifacts of an architectural dig, their once flawless surfaces marred by the cracked earth. (Click images for an expanded view.)

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The series evolved from Anderson's Master of Fine Arts thesis exhibition, "Permanence/Impermanence," which included a standard chair of her own design, fashioned from ash, wax, bronze, grass and mud. Following this "Material Series," Anderson experimented further with mud, inspired by its textural qualities.

The act of transforming such icons, which echoes Maarten Baas' early work for Moss or Mario Minale's "Red blue Lego Chair," is at once homage and assertion—a young designer caking mud on history and charting her own path to the future.

The "Mud Series" is available by special order only, with prices starting at around $2,900. Inquiries can be made by contacting Anderson through her website.

Read Anderson's more detailed account of the series after the jump.

Jennifer Anderson:
Shortly after I completed the "Material Series" I was asked to participate in an exhibition at Limn Gallery in San Francisco. I knew that I wanted to pursue my experimentations with the mud work, but I wasn't sure how I was going to continue. The original mud chair was successful in the context of the series, but on its own I wasn't sure how strong it would be or how it would be received. Although the original is a nice, simple design, it's meant to be seen as a generic chair form, not "high design." After much thought I decided that if I used an existing, well-known, iconic form and translated it into mud, the individual piece would have a much stronger impact.

Using an existing piece as a point of departure was a new process for me that came with its own set of challenges. There are so many fabulous pieces to choose from. I started by researching some of my favorite designers; Hans Wegner was a natural choice because I've always admired his work. His forms are beautiful and his scale and proportions are right on. His use of materials and depth of understanding of wood as a medium is inspiring, as well as his ability to blend industrial processes with a hand-crafted aesthetic. All of this led me to his Wishbone Chair.

For me, one of the most interesting and challenging parts of the process is nailing the proportions. If I don't get them as close to the original as possible, the chair fails. As a maker, I view recreating these masters (even in a different material) like a sculptor sculpting The David or a painter painting The Mona Lisa.

In addition to admiring the forms of the pieces that I choose to recreate, I look at their recognizability and their social commentary. I thought it would be interesting to make Thonet's Café Chair in mud because it's the most reproduced chair of all time. Taking an iconic form that is the epitome of mass-production and making it a one-of-a-kind piece in a non-traditional material makes people think about that object. The Eames chair falls into the same category, but it was also a technical challenge because the individual elements are so thin. My goal was to make the entire chair fully structural and functional, which it is.

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