Salone del Mobile Milano – the furniture fair where all the great developments in the design world are revealed – is back next week for the first full production since 2018. A great sign that the normalcy that has been discussed so much during the pandemic can finally be a reality. While Salone is the best place to discover new names in design, art and furniture, there are exciting projects this month focused on rediscovery. New uses for hemp and a revolutionary way of using wood also appear in our stories. Old is very much the new new in design.
The future of furniture
The most important furniture fair in the world is back this year and, with 60 years to celebrate, the Salone del Mobile Milano is bigger and better. This is just a sampling of the shows, talks and goodies from this year’s festival. Swine Studio created an exhibition staged at the Triennale di Milano inspired by Citizen Kane. The show – called Forest Tales – is for the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC). The show will feature a mountain of wooden crates as showcases for works of art that, from a certain angle, will look like a forest. Each piece presented will be low or no carbon. Fashion house Prada is hosting Prada Frames, a multidisciplinary symposium curated by FormaFantasma on the relationship between the natural environment and design, including lectures by anthropologist Anna Tsing, journalist Alice Rawsthorn and author Amitav Ghosh. Flying the flag of British design, Bethan Gray launches the Inky Dhow collection, a range of fabrics and ceramics created from a design inspired by the striped sails of Dhow boats sailing in the Gulf of Oman. Meanwhile, Tom Dixon celebrates his 20th birthday with an exhibition of 20 never-before-seen designs, some inspired by his signature collections like Fat and Mirrorball, some from the depths of his never-ending imagination. Welcome back in style, Salone.
The 60th edition of the Salone del Mobile Milano will be held at the Fiera Milano Rho from June 7th to 12th
The hemp reform
Having shed old-fashioned associations with hippies and potheads, hemp’s potential is now being investigated by more and more forward-thinking companies. Not easy for a plant that was the first to be spun into a usable fiber, which was used by the Egyptians to move rocks when they built the pyramids and by Christopher Columbus to make sails to travel the New World.
Around 1700, American farmers were legally required to grow it, such as the uses and benefits of hemp. A combination of lobbying from the petrochemical, paper and nylon industries, who would lose billions if hemp’s commercial potential were realized, combined with drug hysteria over cannabis, caused it to fall out of favor in the 20th century, particularly in America. In the mid-1980s, the only two hemp products you could legally buy in the US were Hungarian twine and sterilized birdseed.
Today, companies have begun to re-engage with the potential of hemp. From an environmental point of view, each ton of hemp produced removes 1.6 tons of CO2 from the air.
Futuristic clothing company Vollebak designed a Raw line, the first two releases of which are a Raw hemp sweatshirt and Raw hemp sweatpants. “We did as little as humanly possible with them on the journey of turning a factory into a garment,” says Vollebak CEO and co-founder Steve Tidball. “The color is whitish because it is the same color as the plant fibers. With no dyes and no treatments, you are looking for a new way to create the white color using the inside of the plant itself.”
Other hemp pioneers are looking to make electric vehicle batteries from the material, and alternatives to petrochemical plastics have been made with the plant’s fibers and resin, which can be used to make everything from car doors to musical instruments. Today, it seems, the oldest fabric in the world is now the newest.
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making heavy weather
Do you know the Bengali word for snow or the Urdu word for rain? If not, Artangel’s new sound installation might be what you need. The organization, which specializes in creating exhibits in unexpected places, will present A Thousand Words for Weather next month at the University of London’s Senate Chamber Library. It is the first project by an alliance of artists and writers called the World Weather Network, which calls on creatives to report on environmental change.
In the Senate, a link to live data from the Met Office will allow visitors to hear the sound of weather from various locations, and for a year, artists and writers will report on the weather from places as far away as a New Zealand glacier, a tropical rainforest. or a temple in Greece. Writer Jessica J Lee and sound artist Claudia Molitor have also created a multilingual dictionary of weather words and definitions. The dictionary includes the 10 most spoken languages in London.
“My hope is that visitors will make connections between climate and culture in ways they often don’t,” explains Lee, “to ask how their own ways of thinking about climate can be shared, or sometimes untranslatable, to others who speak other languages. And, of course, just stepping back and thinking about weather intimately, as something that moves us and connects us bodily and culturally.”
A Thousand Words for Weather opens at the Senate House Library on June 22 and will run through Spring 2023 to capture all seasons.
The self-made flatpack furniture
If you hate assembling flat furniture, then this new project by a team from the Institute for Computational Design and Construction at the University of Stuttgart is for you. HygroShape furniture basically assembles itself, thanks to the natural properties of the European maple wood used in construction. Their launch products – a lounger and rocking chair – arrive flat, but once unpacked, the wood begins to dry and curl, thanks to the team’s meticulous computational design.
Prototypes are currently in development, with the company Hylo Tech working on furniture design, but also building components that work with the qualities of wood in an agile and efficient way.
“The biggest potential for self-shaping technology is that we can embed the action of physical modeling directly into the material,” says Dylan Wood, one of the team members behind HygroShape and Hylo Tech. “As a result, we don’t need noisy machines, tools, labor or complicated instructions to assemble the parts.
“This might sound cool for mobile, but we are already developing applications on a larger scale. Think of building components like roofs, columns or entire houses that silently form without construction workers or cranes. The larger and more complicated the parts become, the more useful our approach to material programming becomes.”
The art of repairing, creating and caring
A new exhibition at London’s Somerset House shows the importance of fixing and caring for our possessions. Covering everything from textiles and ceramics to furniture, Eternally Yours features traditional methods of repair and reuse, such as Japanese Kintsugi art and African-American Gee Bend quilts, alongside contemporary artists focused on crafts. Also on display is Brother Beasley’s Repair Shop, created by designer Carl Clerkin. It is modeled on traditional far east workshops that claimed to be able to fix anything. During the course of the exhibition, Beasley Brothers will conduct DIY workshops and demonstrations and skills training.
Clothing and housewares brand Toast will also participate in the show, offering workshops and advice on patching by artists such as Celia Pym and Ekta Kaul.
We wanted to support Eternally Yours this summer to highlight the challenges facing the fashion industry,” says Toast CEO Suzie de Rohan Willner. “As an industry, we need to get to a point where extending the life of the things we own is the norm, as nearly all system failures can be attributed to overproduction and overconsumption. To reduce waste and emissions, we all have a role to play by slowing down and valuing the things we own, not just for a season, but for years – or even generations – to come.”
Eternally Yours takes place at Somerset House from June 16 to September 25