Entries in product development (3)
We first met designer and woodworker Jason Lewis in 2007 at the Guerrilla Truck Show in Chicago. Coinciding with Neocon, the show has become an annual event where local designers, artists and craftspeople exhibit their work within a small moving truck—which purposely line up with the elevated sidewalks of the Fulton Market district.
Jason’s skills as a designer and craftsman were evident in the furniture pieces he showed—including the original wood version of the fleet chair which has been in his portfolio since about 2001. At the time we were without a qualified source to mass produce the chair in the quantities we needed, so while we weren’t able to work with Jason immediately, we knew a good thing when we saw it so we kept it in mind and kept his business card handy.
In 2009, when the opportunity presented itself to mass produce the wood version, we revisited Jason’s workshop—blocks from our new offices—to see which of his designs would be best to pursue. Soon after the idea sparked to reconsider all metal fleet chairs.
Originally inspired by his idea to mirror the elegantly curved back within the seat, the design was easy to envision in metal—including second and third versions in yellow and orange powder-coated metal.
And while the wood version is hand-crafted with mortise and tenon joinery, production of the metal version—as shown below—requires an almost equal amount of hands-on time and level of expertise.
Not familiar with the patented process? First, light colored fabrics resembling cotton puffs are blended by hand to form the marbled-looking yellow, blue and green of the trefoil pattern.
Once matted, each marbled color is cut into trefoil shaped tiles. The artists then layout the colored tiles on top of the rich base which will form the darker “grout” in-between the tiles.
The tiles are then fixed to the base by a needle punching process that entangles the fibers and forms the finished fabric.
When the fabric is finished, it’s sent to the factory for the upholsterer to build the benchmade specs chair and cover it with the exclusive trefoil fabric.
To see how benchmade upholstery is made,