Chair 118: The 'making-of story'
in an interview with Sebastian Herkner © arcade, march/april 2018
Sebastian, how did you end up cooperating with Thonet?
I already knew Norbert Ruf (Art Director, Thonet) from an earlier project. So he knew about how I work, and he asked me last summer whether I would like to develop a chair for imm together with Thonet.
And what did the briefing include?
The briefing related to the traditional Thonet brand and the topic “100 Years Bauhaus” and the “Frankfurt Chair”. It was to become an all-rounder chair that would work in restaurants as well as in homes. Stable, comfortable, durable, but also simple and honest, at an affordable price.
Which aspects were especially important to you?
As a designer, I naturally have respect for the subject “Frankfurt Chair” and the company, and therefore also a feeling of responsibility. The design was to transport this Thonet spirit and at the same time carry my own signature. It was therefore important to me that the seat and backrest would be made of solid bentwood, not veneered – so that nothing could splinter if the chair were to hit any object. A lacquered version was also important to me. I wanted a high-gloss look, which means that it has to be lacquered and sanded several times, up to six times in total. So it’s a very elaborate process. The colours and details were also important to me. I wished for the green and the very dark blue lacquer. Perhaps that was the biggest discussion, and I think the blue could be even a bit darker (looks at prototype). The design of the legs, which are rounded on the back, is also special. They formally refer to the seat and are bevelled towards the front. The result is a very nice play of light refractions. Light is elementary for colour and materials and how the product looks. These highlights provide the chair with a certain elegance and sophistication.
The relationship with craftsmanship always plays a big role for you, as well…
Precisely, and therefore it was nice to be working with a manufacturer like Thonet again. A German company that also produces in Germany, like Schramm or Wittman (for which Herkner also designed new products for imm). And then there is the “Hesse connection”, which enabled me to just drive over there quickly. (Thonet has its headquarters in Frankenberg, and Sebastian Herkner’s studio is located in Offenbach.)
Did you also spend time at the Thonet workshop?
Of course! I also bent wood. This not only requires strength but also a knowledge of how to bend and turn a piece of wood. It takes a great deal of sensitivity and experience.
Born in 1981, Sebastian Herkner studied product design at the Offenbach University of Art & Design, focusing on designing objects and furniture by merging various cultural contexts, combining new technologies with traditional craftsmanship to highlight the multifaceted beauty of the materials and draw attention to fine details. Since founding his own design studio in Offenbach am Main in 2006, Sebastian has designed products for brands such as ClassiCon, Gervasoni and Moroso. He also works on interior design projects and presentations for exhibitions and museums. His designs have received numerous prizes.