I honestly cannot wait to share the history of this chair with you. It really is AN ICON. The first of it’s kind, and one of the (if not the) most progressive seating design’s of the modern age. So let’s get to it!
As it is now known, the Wassily Chair was created in 1926, by Marcel Breuer at the Bauhaus Institution in Dessau, Germany. Originally named the ‘Model B3 Chair’, it was the first piece of seating furniture in the history of design to be made from seamless, bent, tubular steel. Design revolutions are often connected to the advancement in materials and technology, and this chair was exactly that; Breuer found his inspiration for the design from his purchase of the first bicycle in 1925. He was impressed by the weightlessness and strength of the material, but especially the seamless bent in the handlebars. The gave birth to the brain child that was the Model B3 Chair. Breuer was only 23 years old.
Unbelievably, this chair was his first design with the tubular steel material. He was able to create a sleek skeleton-like construction from the bent steel, moving from conventional solid, weighty, upholstered seating design. Stretched pieces of reinforced canvas were used for the seat and back, later being replaced by leather, when the chairs went back into production after World War II. Regardless, Breuer had created a seamless, innovative design that remains progressive, even next to the modern design industries most recent creations.
It is thought that a lot of Marcel Breuer’s inspiration came from his long affinity with Bauhaus. He attended the Bauhaus from 1920 to 1924 and became head of it’s carpentry workshop in 1925. This is where he formed a friendship with fellow Bauhaus tutor Wassily Kandinsky, of whom formed a fond admiration Breuer’s creation: The Model B3 Chair, so much so that he had Breuer make one for himself. Decades later the B3 was renamed the ‘Wassily’ when it was re-released by Italian manufacture Gavina, who had learned of the Kandinsky connection in their research of the history of the chair.
Although this design has been around for decades, I feel as though it’s made a real resurgence over the past couple of years amongst the latest design conscious generations. The Wassily has been massed produced since the 1920’s and apart from the change in material for the seating, the core design has never changed. Breuer spoke of the chair as “his most extreme work…the least artistic, the most logical, and the least ‘cosy’” (Moma.org). For something he saw as so basic and functional, it’s become ‘the influencer’ of the modern furniture world. That right there, is clever design. Although the patent for the design has expired, if you want the ‘original’, Knoll hold the trademark name rights for the original design. However, we see this iconic chair reproduced and copied worldwide under different names.
I’ve honestly appreciated the progressive, sleek, modernist design and aesthetic of this chair for a long time. But to also learn that it was loved by one of my favourite artists makes it even more iconic. I feel I should have known that it was renamed after Kandinsky…! But that’s the whole reason I started these posts: to learn and to research designs that I really love. I hope you’ve found this honestly as interesting as I did!
Wassily Chair in Our Homes
The Akari Light Sculptures by Isamu Noguchi
Every morning I wake up to the view of a beautiful, weightless cloud of white paper. At a flick of a switch, the sculpture becomes illuminated, it’s soft glow reaching out to the far corners of the room. It can only be, the iconic paper lampshade seen in so many of our homes. This morning however, I woke up to the same view, but wondering ‘who the hell created this design I love so much?!’ All I knew was Ikea definitely weren’t the originators of this functional paper bubble floating above my head.
So with that, I decided this year, once a week on a Wednesday, I would post a ’Design Spotlight’. I will look into the history of an iconic design that I really love; be it a lamp, a chair, a vase, and share with you on my instagram @hollycorsiestylist and here on the blog. An education not only for myself, but for many of us who love interiors and see these designs everyday, but might not know where they originated. So for my first week I look at the Akari light sculptures and their maker, Isamu Noguchi.
At a festival in Gifu in the spring of 1951, the Mayor of Gifu appealed to the American-Japanese artist Isamu Noguchi to help revitalise the tradition Chochin Lantern. Once Japan’s dominant producer, Gifu’s high quality decorative design’s had been diluted by mass production of cheaper versions. He wanted Noguchi to reincarnate the icon of Japanese culture.
He adopted the term Akari for his new designs, a Japanese word meaning ‘Light’, referring to both weightlessness and illumination. With the new designs conceptualised, Noguchi took advantage of the design elements previous fabricators had taken for granted: the collapsible nature of these lanterns, which meant that his sculptures could be stored and shipped flat, packaged in a shallow box until unpacked and installed at home. Noguchi was using ‘flat pack’, a staple of the modern home, before Ikea had even coined the term.
Akari moved away from the traditional designs by distinguishing themselves with simple metal armatures along with the variety of designs, moving away from hanging formats. In the early 1960s, Noguchi created metal, single stem stands. By the 1980s, when the designs could be bought across America and Europe, the ‘UF’ stands appeared, with longer, splayed legs to elevate large shades higher from the floor. Noguchi continued to create designs throughout his career. By the 1990s there were over 100 variations in the catalogue, until his death in 1988.
What I am most fond of with the history of his creations are, to this day the Akari lights are still hand crafted in the traditional, family-run Ozeki workshop, still based in Gifu. The design process still uses traditional methods: First Bamboo rods are stretched across the original wooden forms designed by Noguchi. This determines the shade’s shape. Then, Japanese paper made from the bark of a Mulberry tree, is cut into strips and glued onto the bamboo rods. Once dry and the frame is removed, the shade can be manipulated into place. Due to the nature that they are made, it means that every lamp produced is unique.
So iconic and omnipresent are the Akari designs, we’ve seen them reproduced and copied across the design industries, and forever a staple amongst Ikea market halls. So the next time I open my eyes to be greeted by my massed produced copy, i’ll remind myself of the journey, history and tradition behind this beautifully simple design that we see in so many homes. That of course, until I can buy myself and actual Akari Lamp!
Akari in our homes
Some of my fav interior images featuring the beautiful original Light Sculptures
You may also know Iasmu Nogchui for the Iconic Noguchi Coffee Table and Freeform Sofa and Ottoman
So there you have it! I hope you enjoyed this mini education as much as I did! So watch out for my design spotlight, once a week on the blog and instagram.
I’ve always been a bit candle obsessed, the first lockdown saw me buy 10kg of soy candle wax, and that, by the way, is a LOT of wax. After a few failed attempts, I quickly gained a new respect for candle makers (my Chemistry teacher would have told me not to bother as it’s not my strongest area) and I decided to leave it to the professionals.
With the world spending more time in their homes this year, it’s no wonder candle sales have skyrocketed. But it has also been the year of being more mindful and supporting independent brands. And this is what brings us to today’s blog post. But this isn’t any old list of candles, oh no. This new spotlight on our fiery friends gave candle makers everywhere a new wave of creativity: we started to see brands adopting new lust worthy ways to sculpture wax, creations almost too good to burn. We saw the sell-out Lexpott twist candle in Neon Hues, and the ‘nude’ body candle produced by almost everyone (in my list below I tell you where you can get the original!) the candle lovers horizons were broadened like nothing before. So here you have it: my list of the top 5 independent brands, producing and selling sculptural candles so good, they deserve centre place on your shelfie.
Esh are the fairy-tale story of independent candle makers. Established in 2020, with all the hell that’s gone on, you’d have thought the odds were against them. But this brand has gone from strength to strength, with sell out stock at every launch. I love Esh Candles for their individualism (and my SE London Bias). I recently purchased the ‘Mandarin and Meyer Lemon’ set and it did not disappoint. In fact I was over the moon to find out that they’re 100% handmade soy wax candles are also scented with essential oils. 10/10 from me!
Another champion of the natural, vegan soy wax, Ellis Home Candles are hand poured in Hampshire. From beautiful shells to the sort after ‘bubble’ design and classic pillars, what I love the most about
this brand is the COLOURS. They couldn’t have gotten a more perfect array of pastels is they tried. Perfect for the current pastel pop trend we’re seeing to bring a bit of fun to your interiors.
Nata Concept Store not only deliver on individuality, but they also win on colouration. Whether it be geometric shapes or their surrealist ‘illusion’ candles, the latest collection Terra is inspired by nature.The earthy tones are wonderful as stand alone pieces, but when you see the candles together, the tonality will make you want to buy them all. A mantelpiece win.
I shot and styled a collection of stills for the launch of this amazing homewares brand during lockdown (including all of the shots below). We’re seeing the nude statue candle everywhere, but this one was the first. A champion for backing independent makers, Interiahysteria stock the original nude ‘Hannah’ candle by Bonam Kim. And you don’t get much better than an original!
Lifestory – an independent homeware store in
Edinburgh, owned by the lovely Susan. Although not specialising in Candles,
this is literally a one-stop shop for all of your interior needs, and their
Knot candle just had to be included in my top five. It comes in four
scents/colourways, but the White Speckled Coconut is an absolute showstopper;
it would be hard for me to put a match to wick! Not only does it work as a candle,
it ticks all of your edgy ornament needs. *Adds to Christmas List*
So many individual designs popping up, by independent brands - how do we chose from them all? And when we do finally pick our favourite, do we dare light them? This I don’t have an answer for, but I hope this post has answered all of you Sustainable, Independent, sculptural candle needs.