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  • 09.20.12

An American Backyard Icon Becomes A Monument To Chinese Craft

Sam Durant transforms the wobbly plastic seats into ceramic works of art.

It often takes an artist’s keen eye to see beauty where others do not. For Los Angeles multimedia master Sam Durant, the unassuming-but-ubiquitous monobloc chair became something of a creative muse. “I have always found them fascinating,” he tells Co.Design. “A great combination of utility and economy.” This appreciation, however, was tempered with the reality of their production materials and methods. “Unfortunately they’re completely unsustainable unless it can be figured out how to make them out of recycled material in a non-toxic process.”

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A trip to China to participate in a sculpture show offered Durant the opportunity to explore, and completely alter, the origin of the chair in an entirely handmade collection. When the event was unceremoniously canceled he went forward with the project at his own expense, commissioning craftsmen at the Jiao Zhi studio in Xiamen to fabricate a series of one-off porcelain seats. The nine brightly hued specimens take on new meaning as works of form, not function, and offer a new perspective on the preconception associated with a “Made in China” label.

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