October 1, 2006
The Art of Layering
After two intensive years of research, Hella Jongerius and Maharam have produced a textile that juxtaposes handiwork and industrial processes.
Dutch designer Hella Jongerius has built her career by mining history and manipulating traditions to create entirely new objects. A celebration of decoration, tactility, and color, the highly collectible results include soft polyurethane vases for Droog Design that recall ancient earthenware vessels, intentionally flawed tableware for Royal Tichelaar Makkum that exploits the firing imperfections inherent in the age-old production process, and low-cost ceramic pots for IKEA that were inspired by cultures on four different continents. In 2002 Jongerius collaborated with New York–based manufacturer Maharam to create Repeat (see “The Smart Hands of Hella Jongerius,” July 2002), an upholstery textile com-posed of patterns that seamlessly flow into one another over several yards, bringing the concept of mass-customization to the contract industry.
Early next year Maharam will release its second offering by Jongerius: Layers, a collection of wool-felt patterns that intricately mix needlework with cutouts, builds on the success of the award-winning Repeat by upping the technical ante considerably. Commissioned to continue her exploration of needle-punching—the traditional technique she used to create blankets exhibited at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, last spring and subsequently at the Villa Noailles house, in Hyères, France—the designer also ex-perimented with other craft methods, such as embossing, embroidery, and stenciling. After numerous prototypes, Jongerius and Maharam’s in-house design studio developed the method of binding multiple layers of hand-cut felt with machine embroidery, which is featured in Layers. Previewed at Moss Gallery, in New York, and at NeoCon, in Chicago, the collection has already been accepted into the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection. Here Jongerius and principal Michael Maharam share the development process for the first time. “The overall cost of the development and introduction has been enormous, but it’s just a risk we want to take with Hella,” Maharam says of the collection, which will retail for about $300 a yard. “This is the reality of handmade things. When you do multiple steps in multiple locations around Europe, it just adds up quickly.”