December 28, 2007
Fully Loaded Chair — Episode 2: Locked
Janice Blackburn profiled the 28-year-old designer in a December 8, 2007 Financial Times story, which follows.
- A smile in his sights
Wearing cowboy boots and a big Texan belt buckle, Alexander Reh doesn’t look like a gifted young furniture designer based in Brooklyn, New York. But, having grown up in Houston, the 28-year-old now describes himself as a “Texynite” — urbane but with country roots. And that includes donning a cowboy hat while hosting barbecues in his back yard.
His interest in design was nurtured by his parents; his father is an architect and his mother, originally a “stay-at-home mom”, went back to university to study to be an interior designer. He recalls her telling him not to jump on the Eames chair as a child — “it took me a few years to realise what that meant” — and she took him to local Houston museums, including the outstanding Menil Collection and the Rothko Chapel.
He went on to attend the city’s prestigious High School for Performing and Visual Arts, with its curriculum split between academic studies and studio classes. The school regularly welcomed representatives from colleges such as Parsons, the New School for Design, Cooper Union and The Pratt Institute, all in New York, and the Rhode Island School of Design. As a result of those presentations, Reh was inspired to pursue industrial design. He enrolled at Pratt, one of the leading arts colleges in the US.
True to his Texas upbringing, his designs are inspired by a passion for hunting and fishing. His father’s company owned a 2,600-acre ranch in Del Rio close to the Mexican border and as a teenager he shot birds, such as chuckar, pheasants and quail. Although he rarely hunts now, he still uses weaponry to make furniture, gaining satisfaction in giving objects of destruction a creative, non-threatening use. “Humour is largely founded in illuminating truth where you might not expect it,” he says. His focus is “constructive witticism — the physical construction of humour that tests the limits of feasibility and absurdity”.
Inspiration for his graduation project, The Fully Loaded Chair, which uses 400 loaded, 12-gauge shotgun shells fitted into a powder-coated steel frame, came on a hunting trip to Industry, Texas, a beautiful, unspoilt area famed for its rough limestone terrain and enormous oak trees. The chair has bright brass tips on top and is meant to create “a powerful allure and odd dichotomy of comfort and demise between furniture and weaponry”.
Although Reh’s first plan was to work as a designer until he could support himself as a fine artist, he is increasingly excited about the “design art” market and currently working on two new projects. Milky Way is a chandelier constructed from 14 empty gallon-sized plastic milk containers, a hula hoop, a clothesline and numerous other domestic cast-offs, while Deflower is a vase made from multi-coloured condoms and juice glasses. He’s also developing his own brand and a website and working on a variety of commissions.
His main criticism of the Pratt education was its minimal emphasis on the business side of design and particularly on how to protect original concepts and creations with patents, trademarks and copyrights. He also thinks some instructors were too rigid and that the programme lacked an overall theme. But, on the positive side, students were free to pursue their own activities and in the final year they shared a large room known as the Thesis Studio, where they could work on different projects as they wished. This is where Reh started introducing humour into his work, creating the Urban Assault Trowel, a standard garden trowel using elements of hand-to-hand weaponry.
After graduation, he struggled to pay his New York rent and bills, which are considerably higher than those in Texas, and was left with very little to “start pumping into the line of projects waiting to be started”. He eventually took a full-time job with a design company but “it leaves little creative fuel in the tank for my own work”, he says. “I’ve been attempting to grind through and find some sort of balance.”
Edgar Harden, a New York-based furniture and decorative arts specialist who was there when Reh presented his thesis at Pratt, was impressed by the Fully Loaded Chair, especially the way it imaginatively and skilfully incorporates personal history. He hounded the designer for more than a year to get the project into production, then invited him to exhibit in a show of young talents that he was curating at the Max Lang Gallery.
Harden sees Reh as one of an emerging group of American designers who are breaking away from the US design tradition favouring utilitarian objects because “if it’s not useful, no one will buy it”.
So far, the Texan is showing just the right kind of free-spirited creativity.
My 'occasional bathtub overflow': Don't ask — I'll tell
Flautist wondered out loud last month about how it was that I had an "occasional bathtub overflow."
I'd written after the admission, "Don't ask," but there's always one in every crowd.
Well, Ms. Curiosity-killed-the-cat in Georgia, here's the back story.
Once upon a time, I got tired of my bathtub's built-in overflow protection drain being so low on the tub wall that I couldn't sink down to my chin without prompting water egress via said drain.
So I bought a Deep Water Bath (above).
Long story short: If you decide to go that route, make very certain you're not the type to ever wander away from your filling tub.
Because if you do, and get absorbed in something else, you're going to be needing your very own can of Up Shot Kilz.
- Deep Water Bath — Transform Your Tub Into A Deep, King Size Bath
Enjoy a deeper, warmer, more luxurious soak with this ingenious tub drain cover.
Deep Water Bath allows you to fill your bathtub with 60% more water!
Deep Water Bath suctions on to your tub and encases the overflow drain so you can fill the tub to your heart's desire.
Go ahead and fill your bathtub with hot, steamy water, add your favorite bath salts, light a candle or two and climb in for a head-to-toe relaxing experience like none other.
Made of clear, flexible vinyl.
Bette Davis Eyes
Coming in 2008 to a post office near you.
Tickets: 41 cents.
Shaolin Secret Acupressure Massaging Slippers
From the website:
- Shaolin Slippers
The Science of Acupressure
Nowadays, more people are using acupressure and acupuncture to help benefit and improve their lives. We have learned that science and acupressure are not mutually exclusive and are helping to change millions of lives. In many Western countries, there are increasing numbers of doctors and clinics that are recommending alternative medicine to remedy and resolve common ailments. Acupressure is often noted to have little to no side effects, unlike complicated and dangerous pills and medication. Using acupressure is not necessarily just for healing but is most effective for preventing, promoting, and sustaining good health.
The Shaolin Secret
In many Shaolin temples in South China, even though they are in near perfect health, they still use acupressure to maintain their good health. Acupressure is not just used to heal. It is used to prevent problems that come with aging. Your aging body will need the extra health benefits.
Finding the Hidden Secret
During my travels in Asia, I visited a Buddhist temple in the An Fei province of China. I saw a priest walking in shoes with wooden pins. I thought this guy was out of his mind. Why does he endure this kind of pain? While I was in the temple, I found a small waiting room in which 10 people from around the world were waiting in line. I started talking to them about the temple and what they were waiting for. They smiled and told me about this Shaolin method to promote better health. As I was talking to the Shaolin priest, I came up with an improved product using their 5,000 years of tradition. You won't need to fly halfway across the world to see the Shaolin priest.
The design of the Shaolin Slipper is based upon the perfect slipper, developed over thousands of years of ancient Chinese research. How do you improve on perfection? Technology has made available materials that are even better than the wooden shoes. Special rubber is used to make walking more comfortable yet still provide the acupressure stimulation necessary. The materials are also anti-microbial, reducing the risk of foot odor, fungal infection and material breakdown. Plus, a pair of Shaolin Slippers is much less expensive than a flight to China.
RFCafe — 'So deliciously geeky'
From the website:
- Heart-Shaped Teacup and Saucer
Inside this gold-trimmed porcelain set, beverages take on the shape of a heart within the cup's sculpted interior.
A sweet gift for any occasion.
6 oz. capacity.
Prosthetic Arm — From Dean Kamen's DEKA Research and Development Corporation
The inventor of, among other things, the Segway has turned his attention to replacing missing limbs.
From the website:
- Italian Extra-Long Backscratcher Shoehorn
Reaching to relieve an itch or bending to put on a shoe is made easier thanks to our long-handled 29-inch backscratcher shoehorn.
Handsome beechwood shaft makes this an attractive and useful wardrobe accessory.
Sturdy resin head and tongue will provide years of service.