Ask a Designer – How cozy is concrete | Concrete canvas | Concrete furniture

Ask a Designer – How cozy is concrete | Concrete canvas | Concrete furniture


It looks like a comfy ottoman. But it has a rude surprise in store for the
unwary. What looks like soft upholstery is hard concrete. “I was surprised when I touched it. I thought that it would be soft, which it
isn’t.” The unusual idea came from the designer Maria
Gustavsson of Sweden. For her label ‘Swedish Ninja’, she created
furniture using a new material known as ‘concrete canvas’. “I just got the idea that I wanted to make
an easychair looking very, very soft turning to concrete and fool your eye in a way. And once I had that I kind of just made up
an idea around what kind of legs I wanted on the easychair and made a construction where
I could like put the pillows. Then I was just working once all the pieces
were done to get a nice shape.” Maria Gustavsson has a degree in engineering
and industrial design. She aims for a blend of technical knowledge
and inspiration. And she loves to experiment with new materials. “I like when you have a material which no
one has used in the way you want to use it. Then it’s more open for your mind to be creative
around, because you don’t have a picture before you start what you can do. You just have to learn basically.” Concrete canvas was originally developed as
a construction material. It’s more flexible and easier to work with
than regular concrete. When it gets wet, it starts to harden. The material is used for building fire- and
waterproof shelters in crisis areas. “The challenge is to understand the possibilities
of it and also to work around. It’s very dusty and heavy and so on. And to learn how to put it together, like
what should I use. Should I sew it together, what kind of tools?” Maria Gustavsson uses special instrument to
fix the concrete canvas to a mold. An inflatable pillow gives the stapled fabric
its form. Then the designer fits the cover onto a wooden
frame. “It’s very interesting once you put the water
on top of it. Because then you don’t have so much time,
maybe thirty minutes because it starts to get hard quite quickly.” +++ But it takes about 24 hours for the concrete
to harden and dry out enough for the piece to be ready for use. Maria Gustavsson has designed all kinds of
seats made of concrete canvas. Including a canvas-covered stool. The design collection even includes lampshades. Other artists have also discovered the new
concrete canvas. German designer Florian Schmid stitches pieces
of it together. British artist David Teager-Portman sails
away with it. Maria Gustavsson is planning an exhibition
in her studio in the Swedish town of Malmö. She already had many enquiries from would-be
buyers, mostly from abroad. “I think it’s people, they fall in love with
the pieces and they see them in their garden or more like sculptures than a piece of furniture. So people that are open-minded for art more
than maybe into furniture, I would say.” One place you can buy her products is the
“Mint Shop” in London. The stools cost between 840 and a thousand
euros apiece. Gustavsson came into contact with the shop
at London Design Week in 2011. “It was about making objects with a certain
material, but they look different. You know they are really in. Maria achieved that with her beautiful stools. That’s one of the reasons we chose it and
we still are keeping the pieces because they are really beautiful.” Maria Gustavsson’s concrete furniture might
not be what it seems…. but at least it keeps for a long time.

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