John Sebastian at DI

The current exhibition in the lobby of Dansk Industri (the Copenhagen headquarters of the Confederation of Danish Industry on City Hall Square) is showing the work of John Sebastian - a young Danish industrial designer who trained at the Engineering College of Copenhagen from 1998. The exhibition is in conjunction with Corian - Sebastian has produced a number of designs using their man-made material - but there are also examples of work and pieces designed for Gubi, including the Easy Table, and high stools designed for Fritz Hansen.

This is a small but important show in the lobby area for it illustrates well what seems to me to be a shift-change in our feelings towards moulded furniture. Plastic furniture has been around for decades but has generally been confined to children's furniture and garden furniture and public spaces such as lecture rooms or canteens because plastic is light, robust (relatively) and cheap (relatively). That is a crude generalisation but plastic chairs for the home are either seen as fun and produced in bright colours for kids or the robust, weather-proof qualities have suggested a good material for furniture left out in the garden. Obviously there are exceptions like, for instance, the extremely sophisticated shell chairs made in composite or man-made materials from Fritz Hansen produced by them since the 1950s. 

What we do seem to have now is a significant shift in approach. Clear success from designers at Apple, with products that have a broad appeal as well as a cult appeal to designer geeks, show just how sophisticated and elegant moulded designs can be and at the same time there is a growing sense that pressures for sustainability may curiously be swinging popular choice away from wood to plastics even though timber can come from sustainable forests with a clear replanting policy and there are still environment issues with the production and disposal of plastics.

John Sebastian shows in the works in this exhibition that it is possible to pare back design to very simple forms, ideal for moulding techniques, and rethink the way stock, every-day items are used, to produce functional but elegant furniture and sophisticated accessories for the home. 

As a direct consequence of the manufacturing process, these pieces are a single block colour. Modern techniques and improvements mean that weight and surface texture are markedly better making the feel of the plastic much better but where a fashionable colour has been chosen … currently these sort of pale mulberry or grey toned mint greens … then the buyer is a bit the hostage to time and fashion. Would you want an avocado coloured bath now? If, down the line, you want to tone down or brighten up or give a new lease of life to a wooden chair or table you can cheaply and effectively repaint it. Is any company working on being able to do the same for plastic compounds?

 Candle sticks in Corian by John Sebastian

Candle sticks in Corian by John Sebastian

 Coat hanger

Coat hanger

 Stools for Fritz Hansen

Stools for Fritz Hansen

 Table for GUBI

Table for GUBI

The top photograph shows the facade of DI at night with the LED system programmed to display silhouettes of designs from John Sebastian.  The exhibition continues until the 30th April.