“An ode to the original makers” is how Dutch designer Wieki Somers describes her latest project, in which she cast seats found while wandering the back streets of Beijing.
Somers picked stools used by labourers, street vendors, rickshaw drivers and security guards, all of whom had customised or repaired old and found chairs.
“They all had such a rich history,” says Somers. “I thought. I couldn’t do it better than these people, so I asked one man if I could buy his stool. He looked at me like, ‘Are you crazy?’ but then all the neighbours came with their chairs and said, ‘Do you want to buy mine?’”
Among the five seats is one belonging to a lacquer worker, which he had extended by nailing four pieces of wood to the base. Others include a taped-up cardboard box originally used as a pouf, a stool with a fabric-wrapped wooden seat, and a chair with fabric tied onto the back with string. “I wanted to preserve the chairs from the ravages of time and pay homage to their makers,” says Somers.
She worked with local Beijing craftsmen using a traditional casting technique. A silicone mould was made of the original chair, which was burnt away. This was then filled with beeswax, and a plaster mould was made of the wax chair. Hot aluminium was poured in to make the final piece. Red and blue metallic car lacquer was applied in reference to the “other side of Beijing,” says Somers, where these colours are commonly used to display prosperity and pride.
The collection was launched in Miami in December, with 12 editions of each design.
images Pien Spijkers