Furniture building has always been dependent on the use of sturdy materials that can be trusted to hold up under pressure tine and time again. Since the beginning of the furniture building business, the main ingredient in a well-formed piece was the wooden frame. Wooden frames were built to withstand the weight of people, food, or any heavy loads that were put upon them.
For comfort, the furniture frames were often left out completely in favour of an early version of the bean bag chair; cushions were low and stuffed with straw or other soft materials that were available in the region. As for dining seats, it was not unusual in ancient societies for the diners to be seated on the floor with food piled in front of them on low tables - the combination of hard and soft that initially eluded furniture makers was eventually perfected in classical furniture that is still found all over the world.
After the end of World War II, however, came the onslaught of contemporary furniture design. These designers saw the long history of furniture creation as something that was too focused on pure functionality; they sought to bring in a more aesthetic focus that coupled with functional purposes. To achieve this aim, contemporary furniture designers turned to the use of unorthodox materials, structures and shapes in the hopes that these pieces of furniture would be appreciated for their artistic vale as well as their usefulness in the home, workplace, or patio.
Man-made Fibre Enters the Art World
One of the most important materials to contemporary furniture designers is plastic; not only is this a very durable and versatile material but it can be created in virtually any colour and stretched into many different shapes that will maintain their integrity throughout a lifetime of use. Plastic has become a mainstay of so many different facets of society that its use in furniture design was all but destined; in fact this fact meshes perfectly with the entire view of contemporary art. Contemporary furniture designers generally subscribe to the idea that modern art should reflect the true reality of the times; therefore as the use of plastic exploded into society it was only natural that it should be used in furniture making.
Another triumphant material for contemporary furniture designers is fibreglass. This very durable material is very easy to shape into any design because of its initial flexibility; once the shape has been moulded properly a fixative is applied and the structure becomes very solid and endurable. Perhaps it is the flexibility of the materials and the endless number of shapes and structures that plastic and fibreglass can become that has really changed furniture design in the past several decades; whatever the reason it is interesting to see the new designs follow the societal evolution of various cultures around the world.
Evolution and Timing
Art has evolved in all its forms. New materials were a boon to contemporary furniture just as improved inks and paints were a boon to painters and artists. The fact that the materials came into existence at virtually the same time as the contemporary furniture movement leads us to believe in synchronicity and happy endings.
Stella Stevens is an expert in the modern and designer furniture industry.