Currently we have seen the combination of traditional crafts with new technologies in truly fantastic projects, with creations that in many cases are presented as solutions, tools or assistants of the artists.
Gareth Neal, a furniture and product designer, got down to work designing a Hack Chair II together with the collaboration of an industrial kuka robot.
Neal’s work is famous for transcending the boundaries of craftsmanship, his designs combine traditional craftsmanship and digital fabrication. It produces personalized and limited edition items for private clients, collectors, high-end brands and mass-produced works.
He was born in Shepperton, England in 1974. He studied at the University of Buckinghamshire and earned his BA in furniture design and crafts in 1996. After graduation, Neal worked in the studios of furniture makers Fred Baier and Rupert Williamson. In 2001 he moved to London and opened his studio in Hackney Wick. In 2006, Neal moved his studio to Dalston.
The Hack Chair II is carved from green oak using a six-axis CNC robotic arm, then finished by hand and burned according to Japanese technology. The design was exhibited by Sarah Myerscough Gallery at the International Contemporary Art, Design and Craft Fair.
The 6-axis CNC robot was programmed to cut a piece of wood. The designer then hand-carved the Hack Chair II to outline the indentations and shapes that time leaves in the wood.
The seat represents Georgian furnishings in the decoratively curved backrest, in stark contrast to the rigid block shape of the seat. The shape is repeated three times, extending horizontally from the center with a wavy effect, which is a new interpretation of the vertical repeat in the previous replica of the chair.
To later give way to the Japanese yakisugi technique, where the piece has been charred, providing an intense black color and protecting the wood.
Gareth Neal Explains. “I think one of my missions in furniture is to explore how these new technologies are perceived and how craftsmanship is also inherent in their applications.” “It’s about the manufacturer’s brand and the relationship between digital and handmade.”
Indeed, the industrial robot worked as an extension of the craftsman’s hand and tactile knowledge.
Neal’s projects are internationally known, exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York; Saatchi Gallery, London; and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. He regularly participates in the London Design Festival and the Milan Furniture Fair. In 2010, Neal won the prestigious Jerwood Contemporary Makers Award.