Isle artist gets cheers for chair
POSTED: Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Champagne and celebration go hand in hand, and Andrew Neuman has a lot to toast these days.
CHAMPAGNE CHAIR EVENT
» Place: Design Within Reach, Ala Moana
» When: 6 to 8 p.m. tomorrow; refreshments served
Not only was he selected as a finalist in the Design Within Reach Champagne Chair Contest for his miniature chair design but he's also debuting a furniture line that can actually be used by people who are bigger than Thumbelina.
An exhibit specialist for the Hawaii State Foundation of Culture and Arts, Neuman answered the hip store's call for entries in December at the suggestion of a friend and was the sole Hawaii participant. Out of 210 international submissions, 50 were selected for a national tour, which ends in Honolulu. His Bowtie Bench will be on view tomorrow, along with the top three and 46 other finalists' tiny chairs, during DWR's Champagne Chair Event tomorrow at its Ala Moana store.
Contestants were required to create an original miniature chair using only the foil, label, cage and cork from two champagne bottles, with glue being the only adhesive allowed.
"The materials defined the outcome" said Neuman of his design. "As I was working with the material and the form, it started to remind me of a bowtie." The University of Hawaii graduate, who earned a fine arts degree two years ago, combined the concepts of champagne bottle and champagne event.
"I thought of a tuxedo as being synonymous with champagne," he added, "That's how I ended up with a bowtie. It settled the composition for me."
Kimberly Oliver of Design Within Reach in New York said the company focused on chairs for the contest because "chairs were the core of our collection when we founded the company 10 years ago. People respond to them in a way that they don't to other pieces of furniture."
The Vitra series of miniatures based on iconic chairs throughout history may also have inspired the focal point of the annual contest, going on its sixth year, she said.
Entries were judged on craftsmanship, creativity, character and innovative use of materials.
Neuman has been a showing artist for two years, exhibiting paintings, drawings and prints in various galleries. But he's stepped back to focus on other projects including his side business, Neuman Objekt Grafik, which has a Web site in progress at http://www.andrewneuman.com.
"I still consider myself a fine artist, but I really want to get involved in design as more of a career," he said.
His Bowtie Bench would be at home "in a little boutique or restaurant, used as an entrance piece, but I was thinking more along the lines of a design competition," he added. "It wasn't really meant to have somebody sit in it; therefore you could take a lot more liberty with the design"—unlike the line of furniture he designed for a local startup company, Goshi Furniture Design, LLC, which will be unveiled soon as the Neuman Lounge Line, consisting of a rocker, lounge chair and love seat.
"(Goshi) is high-end and hand-built and I'm helping them with one of their first lines."
He thinks his miniature Bowtie Bench, if constructed full-scale, would be comfortable, "if you sat lengthwise. It's more ergonomic that way, like a one-person chaise lounge."
Critiquing his competition, he thought, "some would not hold up."
"The engineering's just not there," he said. "The legs would be too thin on some or (others) were just impossible."
But he added, "The contest is fun because you don't really have to think about the (physical) human interaction with it. Technically, they could fit everybody and nobody at the same time."
'Modern' chairs among the most comfortable
Modern design is known for its minimalist, clean lines, and upon first glance, chairs of that era might not seem as inviting as the big and cushy kind. But Curtis Lee, manager of Design Within Reach's Ala Moana showroom, said some of the chairs that represent modernism are the most comfortable, which explains why they are still in production.
His three favorites are the Womb Chair, the Barcelona and the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman.
"All those chairs are more than 50 years old. Construction of the chair is what makes it comfortable, the depth of the seat plays an important part, and the angles. All three have a little bit of an incline.
The Eames was designed in 1956 by Ray and Charles Eames.
"The inspiration was a baseball glove," Lee said. "When you sit in it you feel like you're in a glove."
The Womb Chair was conceived in 1948 by Eero Saarinen for Florence Knoll.
"She wanted a chair that she could really curl up in. It's shaped so you feel surrounded."
The Barcelona was good enough for the king and queen of Spain, designed in 1929 for them.
Lee said, "These are perfect examples of how a classic quality design is timeless."