more from MONO - the Cabinetmakers’ Autumn Exhibition at Thorvaldsens Museum

Through November and into early December this year, 2018, MONO - a major exhibition of furniture by cabinetmakers - was shown in the rooms of Thorvaldsens Museum in Copenhagen.

This was the annual exhibition - Snedkernes Efterårsudstilling or Cabinetmakers’ Autumn Exhibition.

Generally, furniture shown here is not in production and many of the pieces were designed specifically for the exhibition as it is an opportunity to try out ideas or try new forms or to use materials in unconventional ways that might not be obvious for a commercial manufacturer and, above all, designers find ways to highlight the skills of the cabinetmakers.

There are photographs here of the forty-one works shown along with basic information about the materials and dimensions but many of the pieces deserve longer individual posts.

S.E Snedkernes Efterårsudstilling
Thorvaldsens Museum

more from MONO - O-X and Sunrise by Lise and Hans Isbrand

 

Lise and Hans Isbrand designed two pieces for MONO - the Cabinetmakers’ Autumn Exhibition at Thorvaldsens Museum … a low wide chair called Sunrise  with shaped and curved  seat and back rest in laminated wood supported on an elegant frame in ash and a low table with a circular wood top supported on a steel frame, that for fairly obvious reasons, has the title O-X.

On the first day after the exhibition opened, there was a chance to meet Lise and Hans Isbrand and we talked about their work. They discussed the construction of the chair and were kind enough and patient enough to turn the chair over and turn it around so I could see how the frame is constructed and take photographs.

It struck me that the chair and table are different in character and form but they explore similar and related ideas about construction ... they explore how you construct as thin and as light a support as possible … with one in wood and one in steel.

Sunrise - the chair - has unusual and distinct features in it's design but is clearly in a long Danish tradition of cabinetmaking for furniture made from wood.

The seat and the back of the chair are broad oval shapes in thin laminated wood or plywood that are curved in just a single plane and that is a form of chair that goes back to the 1950s - to shell chairs designed by Hans Wegner - but where chairs by Wegner either had a bold support that was also in laminated wood or had a robust frame in wood, often oak, here, in the Isbrand chair, the seat and back are supported on a complex frame that exploits the qualities of the ash that has been used for legs and cross members that are barely thicker than a dowel and form a complicated and elegant scaffold.

O-X, the low table, also explores and experiments with the intrinsic characteristics of the materials … a large but thin disc in wood for the top is supported on a bent steel frame.

The top is about 20mm thick but the edge, rather than being cut square, has a very precise and deep chamfer that makes the top, from a slight distance, look more like a disc of sheet metal.

For the frame that supports the top, the design exploits the qualities of steel that is not just strong in itself but when bent into sharper curves than are possible with steam-bent wood it becomes even stronger as a support so it can either take a heavier weight or, as here, the parts of the supporting frame can be reduced in thickness.

If the chair is firmly within the Danish cabinetmaking tradition … a tradition of making furniture in beautiful wood, unadorned, in a sharp and precise form of construction executed with real and very obvious skill … the table is different.

It has a stripped back or pared down simplicity that reflects a specifically Danish form of minimalism. I suggested to Hans Isbrand that the table, in its style,  looks back to the 1960s and was firmly put in my place. However, the use of metal for furniture, that actually goes back to the 1930s in Denmark, was strongest in Danish furniture in the 1960s but somehow has never really competed in popular taste with furniture in wood. 

Perhaps, this was because, without deposits of iron or coal, there was little steel production in Denmark or perhaps simply because making good furniture in wood was so well established in Denmark that wood was and still is what Danish buyers choose to buy.

There are clearly great Danish pieces from the classical period of modern design that use metal - so the Super Elipse table by Piet Hein from 1964 or the chairs and tables with steel frames by Poul Kjærholm through the 1950s and 1960s - but even now there is much less furniture in glass and steel in a Danish furniture store than you would expect to see in Germany or France or Italy.

ISBRAND DESIGN

Sunrise by Lise and Hans Isbrand - MONO catalogue 26

The large oval-shaped seat and the backrest of the chair are in laminated wood or plywood that are curved in just one plane and rest lightly on a thin and elegant framework or scaffold in ash.

Ash has a straight and regular grain and this is exploited in the construction with the parts of the frame turned and reduced to a small cross section so the pieces are barely more than the thickness of a dowel.

For a framed chair in wood the simple and common form has a square or circular frame that supports the seat with, normally, two legs at the front, often but not always housed into the underside of the frame, and with two legs at the back that continue above the level of the frame to support a piece of timber for a back rest that is set either vertical or at a slight angle for more comfort and is either between the upper parts of the back legs or fixed across the front of the two uprights. To keep the legs in place the next stage is to add stretchers - lengths of timber between the legs to stop them splaying out and if stretchers are added then the timber of the legs can be thinner.

It doesn't really have to be spelt out like that here except that it shows just how many of those conventions the Isbrands play with and subvert to create such an elegant framework of wood to support the seat and the backrest of their chair.

The other basic elements of construction that should be pointed out is that horizontal and vertical parts of a chair are usually fixed together with mortice and tenon joints with the mortice or slot in the main and usually thicker timber and the tenon or tongue that is fixed into the mortice is usually on the end of the thinner secondary timber. The classic ways to stop the tenon pulling out is either to drill a hole through the side of the mortice and tenon and drive through a peg to hold the two pieces together or to cut a slot across the end of the tenon and, when the timber is in place - with the tenon in the mortice - then a wedge is driven into the end to expand the tenon and stop it pulling out. The strength of the joint is greater the more precisely it is cut and often it is the shoulder, at the point where the timber is reduced in size at the start of the tenon, that has to be well cut, to keep the pieces at the right angle,

In Sunrise the tenons are rounded off at the top and bottom to form an extended oval shape and there are two wedges in dark wood to keep the tenon from pulling out so this becomes a strong decorative feature of the chair frame. The tenons do not have a pronounced shoulder but there are hollow curves back from the joint itself to make the transition from the tenon to the full thickness of the timber.

The frame is complicated. Perhaps the most conventional part is the front frame with two vertical legs with two stretchers - one just below the top of the legs and a second stretcher just below that.

The two back legs are set out at a pronounced angle and do not support the back rest directly but are housed into short verticals that support the back rest and are rather like props. The two vertical supports for the backrest do not run down to the ground but are housed into long raking struts that run from the top stretcher between the front legs angled down and out to the back legs.

The laminated seat rests at the front on short collars or spacing pieces housed into the top of the upper stretcher and the back of the seat is supported on short brackets out from the lower part of the struts that support the back rest.

Again, as with the front of the seat, there are short spacers between the struts and the curved back rest.

To stop the back legs moving outwards there are low stretchers, just above the ground, between the front and the back legs.

There are very nice details to the frame like the deep cups shaped out of the tops of the legs.

Rather than having upholstery or a cushion for the seat there is a simple round hole cut through the laminated wood that is closed with halyard taken from side to side, woven by threading the rope down through small holes drilled around the opening.

Sunrise
MONO catalogue number 26
designed by: Lise and Hans Isbrand
produced by: MoreWood Møbelsnedkeri ApS

asketræ / ash
height: 75
width: 80
depth: 80 cm

 

O-X by Lise and Hans Isbrand - MONO catalogue 38

This is a simple circular top on four short steel legs but those legs are not fixed into the underside of the top and are not part of a frame on cross struts immediately under the top but are set outside the rim with the top of the legs bent in a relatively sharp curve inwards and inserted into hole in the rim where they are held in place by a grub screw from below.

At the floor, the legs are linked by cross piece to the leg diagonally opposite. These X pieces might have met at the centre but they are arched upwards but each with a different curve so one crosses over the other.

The edge of the top could have been cut to form a simple flat face or could have been given a rounded profile but is undercut with a sharp chamfer. Wood cannot be cut to a thin sharp angle but here the vertical at the top edge of the chamfer is as thin as possible and that makes the top, for its size, very elegant.

This chamfer could have been stopped square or angled off but is swept down and then back up to form a vertical where the top of the leg goes into the top of the table. They are held in place by small grub screws.

A large but elegant and deceptively simple but sophisticated table.

 

O-X
MONO catalogue number 38
designed by: Lise and Hans Isbrand
produced by: Gate95 ApS


rustfrit stål, farvelakeret plade / stainless steel, painted tabletop
height: 40 
diameter: 90 cm

 

En stol / A chair - designed by Johannes Foersom & Peter Hiort-Lorenzen

 

This is a deceptively simple but very clever design - like a child's drawing of a chair or a cartoon drawing of what a chair should be like - a chair that should be in a Walt Disney cartoon like the Sorcerer's Apprentice - but beautifully realised in wood.

With rounded corners and rounded edges it's the very opposite of thin and elegant so it is somehow comforting and it brings out the soft, warm and almost gentle, qualities of good oak in a way that is found too rarely in modern furniture.

The seat is solid and not round but squarish with strongly-rounded corners and the edge of the seat is rounded off with the most pronounced rounding on the top edge rather than it being a symmetrical moulding or being undercut. The four legs are robust and turned - so round rather than square in section - and tapered - so wider at the top and narrower at the ground -  and the foot is not cut square or flat but also has an obvious rounding.

The legs are set directly into the underside of the seat but into blind mortices * and they are angled outwards slightly for stability. Because the legs are relatively thick, stretchers that are necessary in lighter and thinner chairs to stop the legs splaying out or twisting, can be omitted here.

The back rest is substantial and sharply curved - in the horizontal plane - embracing the back of the sitter but is not in plywood but is cut from oak and again is given a softer, smooth shape with rounded corners and rounded edges. It is supported on four robust flat splats - rather than turned spindles - and again the edges are smoothed round and, like the legs, these splats are held in place with tenons in blind mortices so no distractions from anything as complicated as a peg or a wedge.

Maybe it sounds silly to say this but it seems to be a deliberately unpretentious and an amazingly open and friendly chair. To use a phrase normally associated with candles - this is hyggelig.

 

 

En stol / A chair
MONO catalogue number 24
designed by:
Johannes Foersom & Peter Hiort-Lorenzen
produced by: Kvist Industries A/S

egetræ / oak

height: 73
width: 55
depth: 52 cm

 

 

 note:

* In simple furniture, particularly in what is often called country furniture, the most common way to fix turned legs to a solid seat is to cut a round tenon at the top of the leg and, with a hole completely through the seat as a mortice, the tenon is held in place by cutting a slot down through the tenon and once the leg is in place, the tenon is expanded by driving in a wedge from the top. The strength of the leg depends on the precise and sharp cutting of the mortice and the shoulders of the tenon.

Chair by Anne Fabricius Møller at MONO - the Cabinetmakers' Autumn Exhibition

 

 

Stol / Chair: Spøjs / Speys - MONO catalogue 3

What you notice first about this chair is the striking colour. It's not paint, because you an see the grain clearly but it's not stain … the chair is made in hardwood from a tree of the genus Peltogyne that is native to South and Central America and is known, for fairly obvious reasons, as Purpleheart because the heartwood turns a deep purple after the timber is cut.

But it's not just the colour that is unusual. The chair has an unusual form that was inspired by a work of the German artist Joseph Beuys that is now in the Neue Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart. It has a solid and relatively thick seat in wood with four turned or round legs that are slightly tapered - so thinner at the floor - and set just in from each corner but with a pronounced splay outwards at an emphatic angle to make the chair stable. These legs are fixed with a round tenon that goes through the seat and is held in place by a wedge driven down into the tenon from above.

So … so far fairly conventional.

But the chair is rectangular - much deeper than it is wide - with a back rest fixed across the narrow end … well a back rest if you sit astride the chair with your back against the rest or it is a single arm rest if you sit on the chair as if it is a bench.

This backrest / armrest is shaped rather like a staple or perhaps more like a squared-off and simplified version of the Greek letter Pi [ π ] with two uprights in turned wood and a straight but tapered cross bar linking the two at the top. This is dropped down into deeply-curved vertical grooves or channels on each long side of the seat - just in from the corners of the narrow end - and down and slightly inwards to cross over the legs - again running through rounded vertical channels but here cut in the legs - and stop short of the floor.

  

Spøjs / Speys
MONO Catalogue number 3
designed by
: Anne Fabricius Møller
produced by: Toke Overgaard

Amaranttræ / also known as amaranth and purpleheart
height: 69 
width: 48
depth: 63 cm

more from MONO - 2Gether by Steen Dueholm Sehested

 

At Thorvaldsens Museum in Copenhagen, in November and early December this year, there was a major exhibition of furniture by cabinetmakers. This was MONO - the Snedkernes Efterårsudstilling or Cabinetmakers’ Autumn Exhibition.

Generally, these pieces are not in production and many were designed specifically for the exhibition as it is an opportunity to try out ideas or use materials in unconventional ways that might not be obvious for a commercial manufacturer and designers find ways to highlight the skills of the cabinetmakers.

There are photographs here of the forty-one works shown along with basic information about the materials and dimensions but many of the pieces deserve longer individual posts.

2Gether by Steen Dueholm Sehested - MONO catalogue 13

Stools with an X-shaped frame have a well-established place in Danish design - the display of chairs at Designmuseum Danmark has nine stools of this form.

Most of these stools are folding stools with two frames that are pivoted or hinged at the centre and open out or fold out to form an X shape that supports a seat that is often canvas but can be leather or slats of wood from side to side across the top.

Here, in the stool designed by Steen Dueholm Sehested, there are two pieces - each a complex C shape, with the wood not a constant thickness but thicker at the centre and tapered or thinner towards the top and bottom and curved in both planes with slots cut into them so that they can be slotted or linked together. The C shapes cross over, curve back and cross over again so the base and the top on each side are part of the same piece to create an elegant and sculptural form.

Such complex curves could not be formed from single planks but are made up with finely-cut and joined blocks with the grain forming a part of the design.

The side pieces do not sit square on the floor but the bottom edge is champfered and cut to a sharp curve so the stool has just four points of contact with the floor.

 
 

2Gether
MONO catalogue number 13
designed and made by:
Steen Dueholm Sehested

formspændt egetræ / moulded oak

height: 44
width: 38
depth: 26 cm

MONO - exhibition catalogue

 

The catalogue for the Cabinetmakers’ Autumn Exhibition in 2018 at Thorvaldsens Museum in Copenhagen has a general introduction to the exhibition by the selection board and then for each work there is a double-page layout with a full page black and white photograph for each of the works.

These monochrome images are dramatic and chime with the theme of the exhibition but also give a strong emphasis to the form of each work.

Some pieces have a descriptive or evocative name - so Calm or Look don’t touch and a cabinet for the display of special possessions has the title Ego - while other titles are more straightforward, with works described as Chair or Table and Chair.

Of course the catalogue sets out the name of the designer and the name of the cabinetmaker or the company who realised the work and each entry includes the materials and the dimensions of the piece.

There is also a short paragraph on each work to set out any thoughts that inspired the design or to talk about technical details - many of the pieces use material in an innovative way or the construction is much more complicated than is immediately apparent - and there is a translation in English.

Graphic design is by Studio Claus Due and the black and white photographs were taken by Torben Petersen.

Snedkernes Efterårsudstilling / The Cabinetmakers’ Autumn Exhibition 2018

Thorvaldsens Museum

Studio Claus Due

 

tripartite Shell Chair by Hans Wegner 1949

the Tripartite Chair now in the collection of Designmuseum Danmark

 

 

More often than not, when someone describes a chair as unique then it is either hyperbole or they are writing for an advert or a sponsored post ……

…. but the tripartite shell chair - designed by Hans Wegner and shown to the public at the Cabinetmakers' Exhibition in 1949 - really is unique because just one chair was made by the cabinetmaker Johannes Hansen and after the exhibition it was not sold but taken by Wegner to use in his own home - the design was never put into production.

Wegner had previously designed furniture with shaped and curved laminated wood for Fritz Hansen - Chair FH1936 and a bench or sofa version FH1937 and the tripartite chair was not the only chair in plywood in the 1949 exhibition because Børge Mogensen, Wegner's colleague and friend, also showed a shell chair.

Although the form of the tripartite chair seems simple - a wooden frame with three separate pieces of laminated wood that are shaped and curved for a seat, back rest and head rest - it is difficult to describe the shape of the chair and almost impossible to describe the frame that supports that seat, back rest and head rest.

read more

Side by side outside - Cabinetmakers’ Autumn exhibition 2017

 

 

This was the first day of the Cabinetmakers’ Autumn exhibition at Designmuseum Danmark.

It was raining and cold and the leaves are turning but it didn’t matter. In fact it meant I had the garden of the museum to myself. 

For me this annual exhibition - to show the work of the cabinetmakers - is always one of the best exhibitions of the year. It never fails to challenge or delight or make you look at a material or a form or a convention in a different or new way.

In a city where there is so much good architecture and so much great design, it is actually this exhibition that comes closest to summing up what this site is about - about looking at and taking photographs of and writing about those works where imagination; the ability to translate an idea into a working and feasible design; a command of the materials being used and the skill of the craftsman or the quality of manufacturing - all come together. 

A full review to follow

 

Side by side outside continues at Designmuseum Danmark until 5 November 2017