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Limited edition: Prototypes, one offs and Design Art Furniture
By Sophie Lovell

March 02, 2009 /
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In our increasingly standardized global village, the touch of individuality is starting to become precious again. Both designers and consumers want unique and longer-lasting products with a story. The limited furniture series manage to satisfy the collector’s appetite with objects where the boundary between furniture and art dissolve.

limited_2.jpgPhoto © Marcus Gaab
The Fig Leaf by Tord Boontje

limited_3.jpgPhoto © Pablo Reinoso Studio
Spaghetti Bâle by Pablo Reinoso

Furniture prototypes have always been an element of the industrial design process, but now they are being brought from the workshops and presented to the public as embodiments of one of the most creative fields of our age.

limited_4.jpgPhoto © Estudio Campana
Trans Rock Chair by Fernando and Humberto Campana

limited_5.jpgPhoto © Byron Slater
Dirty Thoughts Chair by Rolf Sachs

Divided into five main sections: the first chapter, Prototypes, deals with an approach where furniture concepts take precedence over furniture products and the workshop becomes a laboratory for experimental expression.

As its name suggests, the prototype is the first of its kind; a little rough and imperfect perhaps, but the first clear example of its type nonetheless. The implication is that there will be more to follow. The prototype is traditionally the phase or moment between concept and series for industrial designers. Everything else that follows can be called refinement or compromise - depending on how you want to look at it.

limited_6.jpgPhoto © Bob Goedewaagen
Props by Hella Jongerius

limited_7.jpgPhoto © Atelier Satyendra Pakhalé
B.M. Horse Chair by Satyendra Pakhalé

limited_8.jpgPhoto © Atelier Satyendra Pakhalé
B.M. Horse Chair by Satyendra Pakhalé

In the furniture world, there have always been designers and artisans who choose to create and develop their own individual pieces on a small scale, often spurning the mainstream and working to commission or selling direct to the customer.

The second chapter One-Offs talks about how consumers also increasingly want products with a story. They want to know who made what they are buying, how it was made and what materials and resources were used in the process.

limited_9.jpgPhoto © Elaine Brody
Early Table by Gord Peteran
From the “Demi-Lune” series of one-offs

limited_10.jpgPhoto © Åbäke
From “100 Chairs in 100 Days” exhibition
100 unique examples made from re-reappropriated found and donated chairs of all types.

Edition X examines the motivations for designers, dealers and collectors behind the limited edition phenomenon.

In the usual design process you work with many constraints; price, functions, ecology, ergonomics etc. These constraints are nothing to complain about; finding solutions for them is the very nature of design. However constraints often censor new ideas. By eliminating most of them, edition work can trigger something surprising and, with a lot of effort and luck, something beautiful and, with even more luck, something that later leads to a new approach to an everyday problem./Rolf Fehlbaum, CEO of Vitra

limited_11.jpgPhoto © Neubauten Studio
Trave by Johanna Grawunder
Wall-mounted console, edition of 4

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Photo © Front
Confetti lamp by Front

limited_13.jpgPhoto © Bas Helbers
Bone Chaise by Joris Laarman

limited_14.jpgPhoto © Carpenters Workshop Gallery
Lucky Day by Wendell Castle, edition of 8

There has been a shift in responsibility for encouraging innovation in design. Manufacturers, it seems, are no longer calling the shots when it comes to experimentation. It is an international design gallerist elite, that are now The New Patrons of progress.

The final chapter deals with design and the world of Auctions and Attitudes. Since works from contemporary stars started hitting six or even seven figures, more and more auctions are devoted to pieces by contemporary designers.

limited_15.jpgPhoto © Phillips de Pury & Company, New York
Slice Chair by Mathias Bengtsson

limited_16.jpgPhoto © Nacasa & Partners Inc.
Water Block by Tokujin Yoshioka
edition of 8+2+8

Names matter because the names are there for a reason. Ron Arad, Marc Newson, Zaha hadid are not just marketing phenomenon, they are the best of their time. That said, I would rather have the best work of of a lesser-known designer than a mediocre example from a top-tier name. Quality is the goal./Richard Wright - Founder of Chicago based Auction house Wright

From interviews with key designers, manufacturers, gallerists, auctioneers and critics, the author Sophie Lovell has catalogued and compiled a unique and timely overview of one of the most exciting creative fields of our age.

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Publisher: Birkhäuser

Last updated: December 19, 2013

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