The act of giving life

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words Laura Houseley

"The act of giving life" is central to Spanish designer Nacho Carbonell's practice. Since graduating from Design Academy Eindhoven last year, he has created a series of furniture pieces that create playful, tactile relationships between user and object.

Pump It Up was Carbonell's graduation project and a succinct introduction to his ambitions. The act of sitting on the chair pumps air into small rubber animals that are attached to it, which then inflate and "come alive". "The process of giving life, even when it's an artificial life, is the most satisfying act for a human being," says Carbonell.

"My relationship with my objects is paternal - they are my babies, my creations, emotionally linked to me by the effort and care put into the development process."

Carbonell often likes to give his designs animal-like qualities to increase the bond between user and object. "The more alive they become, the more you become attached," he says. "I want the user and the object to become linked in an immediate way."

The Evolution series, presented at Milan this year, uses a different visual language and method of production, but has a similarly organic quality. Bulbous forms seamlessly merge with chairs, and benches appear to have been grown rather than manufactured. A bench with a cocoon-like structure attached to one end offers an enclosed space for escapism and physical withdrawal. In another piece, two chairs are connected by a tunnel where the users can hide away from the world.

The Evolution series is made using a paper pulp from collected waste products and applying it to a wire structure - a laborious and time-consuming process. "For me the method of the craftsman allows me to get ahead of the industrial process - the capability of doing things right away on a smaller scale gives you a freedom you will never have by following the rules of industry," says Carbonell. "I think craftsmen make things more human."

The designer has recently taken over a cavernous church in Eindhoven, building a series of small workshops and spaces to enable him and others to design as well as produce their work on site. For Carbonell, the church acts as a "protecting shell" where he is able to detach himself from the design world and get on with adding to his stable of fantastical objects.

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