Q: In order to replicate the Fiber Chair’s form and strength, you had to create a material that significantly differs from the original. How did you go about developing this and which discoveries did you make along the way?
Trine: On a molecular level, the new material is quite unlike the original. Previously the virgin plastic would drape itself over the wood fibers like a thin coating. In the black version, it would lay like a blanket over the fibers and as a result, they would only be visible to the naked eye upon very close inspection.
The recycled material does not embrace them in the same way, so the graininess of the fibers is much more tangible to both the eye and touch. The plastic and wood fibers are a bit like water and oil in this case. In the microscope, one can see that there are small air bubbles nudged in between them. By adding an additive that binds these together, we create a material that is super durable with excellent strength properties. It’s a bit magical.
In this way, the base material is very different. Plastic is not just plastic. Usually, we would find a material with a set of given qualities, yet this time around we are inventing a material that fits the bill. That means we have spent a vast amount of time tweaking, compromising in some departments in order to accomplish our goals in others. In the end, working with the new material has been a blessing, making the wood fibers tread more into the forefront of the design, producing a beautifully tactile surface.
Q: Recycled plastic and wood fibers both come with an inherent color to take into account. How did the material test your usual way of approaching colors?
Silke: The great challenge here was to truthfully reproduce the original colors of the Fiber Chair in a completely new material without compromising on refinement.
With a relatively transparent recycled plastic material like the one we are fortunate to work with, the wood dominates the color more. As the annual rings of a tree trunk come in all shades of yellow and brown based on the conditions of a given year, the wood fibers of course vary in color. It is a natural material and that is part of its splendor.
As there is more yellow in the mix, we have to compensate with a contrasting color – in this case, blue. Old school color theory, really.
Trine: This issue becomes extra evident in the white version of the chair, its shell contains 10% rather than 25% wood fibers, which would make it look like cardboard. There simply isn’t enough color to suppress the yellow without going off-shade. It’s an equation we constantly have to balance.
The wood fibers in the material also create a definite sense of depth. This grain captures the light, accentuating the deep curves of the shell. Although it is a relatively subtle quality, you are able to not only see the fibers on the surface of the seat but also the ones deeper into the shell, creating a gradient with a sense of three-dimensionality.