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Monday, August 20, 2012

Culture Potion


IAnD Exclusive


By Ishita Shah
Photography: courtesy the designer


Furniture designer Chris Martin speaks to IAnD about his design sensibilities on his recent visit to Ahmedabad and his hands-on work with its craftspeople...

“...the United States is itself a melting pot; everything is kind of morphed into one thing. While if you see countries like India or Africa, where I have even lived for two years, they are sort of pure. I like taking inspiration from all that...my work shows how I try to understand these cultures, try interpreting them and thus I am interested in exploring what all this leads to”, furniture designer Chris Martin begins the conversation, introducing the socio-cultural background behind his design projects.

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Chris has been passionate about working with his hands since childhood. He even transferred out of the architecture programme at Iowa State University,  as the skill of art and jewellery design engrossed him the most; perhaps for the fact that he could conceptualise, draw and materialise his designs by himself. It was his conscious decision to opt for a profession that would allow him to design and make; instead of merely designing, with someone else executing. It was his encounter with materials and scale, while exploring furniture design that comprehensively put all his interests into place. He sums up saying, “You know the famous American fable about Goldilocks and the three bears...so I would say I realized architecture was too big, jewellery was too small and furniture in its scale was just right!”

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He describes his design process as very adaptive in nature; just like that of an artist. Sometimes he pens down a design problem, finding a solution for it; or his designs are based on his choice of material; or for a custom design, in response to a specific brief; while at times his designs are based on his inspirations from recent travel experiences.

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Chris’s furniture exhibits a constant and strong confrontation between the artist and the designer in him. Under the designer’s hat, his productivity depicts experimentation in terms of detailing, usage and simplicity. Contrarily, his artistic side deals with explorations of form-making, abstraction and apparent complexity. Hence, Chris finds his role constantly changing with every context and perhaps every different project he takes up. Materials and forms fascinate him and his designs are in response to his urge to simply create. What do remain constant are his technique and his individualistic skill.

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As a part of The House of MG Residency Program 2012, for which Chris visited Ahmedabad, India, and chose to work amidst the craftspeople, he has designed an interesting cupboard for some hotel rooms inspired from various local elements found in the city markets like small shrines covered in aluminium, architectural details, antique products and textile and mirror crafts. The final design is a beautiful blend of craftsmanship in wood, leather, metal and other softer materials; an exquisite quality of Ahmedabad heritage.

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With different inspirations translated into variety of furniture pieces, designer Chris Martin considers his work to be multi-faceted and global in character. Moreover, he looks forward to this exposure to allow him to combine more and more cultures and their understandings into every new piece he designs.

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