In December/January this year I was contacted by a Paul Firbank, AKA The Rag & Bone Man, to come up with a technical solution to a chair he had designed and built. Paul is a wizard transforming scrap metal into desirable objects, lighting and furniture (check out some of his amazing work in this great video below)
At his invitation to site, I opened a door (to what I thought was a disused retail space nearby Wembley Stadium) and was totally stunned (and excited)by what I saw: Paul and his team had been breaking up an Airbus 320 commercial airliner (minus its engines and landing gear). Working day & night transforming as much of the aircraft as they could into beautiful furniture , desirable household items and lighting .
After picking up my jaw up off the ground, Paul showed me around the space, explaining the reason why he took on such a massive project: As part of a programme by Kevin McCloud for Channel 4, where Kevin Illustrates how to combat the challenge of growing industrial waste in our environment through upcycling & recycling in a 90-minute TV special,through challenging three designers (one of which being Paul )to turn an entire Airbus A320 into hundreds of amazing new products in a giant ‘Up-cycling’ experiment. Their task is to find new uses for as much of the plane as possible within the given timeframe, leaving only an empty hangar behind them. The designers to turn the aircraft into loads of amazing new products, the best of the bespoke items would then be auctioned off, with the proceeds (hopefully exceeding the purchase price for the aircraft )going to childrens cancer charity The NCCA.
After showing me around the site Paul presented the chair he wanted help with. His work is incredible! The armrests came from the airplane fuselages structural beams. Paul used the suspension fashioned from the webbing used to carry cargo/luggage.
One of my challenges involved reshaping the webbing: Each join on the cargo netting was originally glued as well as stitched together and had to be taken apart without compromising its tensile strength and load-carrying capacity.
The single seat itself was created fusing two of the existing passenger seats. Refurbishing & modifying them so the user can enjoy a relaxed and supported position with a good lower back support. Adjusters were stitched into the seat’s suspension for users to adjust the suspension where required.
From the various fabrics discussed and presented to Paul, a smart,strong and complimentary coloured tweed from Bute Fabrics in Scotland was chosen. As I worked with the fabric I imagined and applied a stitched, quilted pattern
that I thought would respect the original design lines of the passenger seats.
Overall, it felt a great privilege to be involved in such an exciting innovative project which steps up to illustrate to the extreme the growing problem of industrial waste which strikes to the heart
of a real social, environmental and economic concern.
My sincere and deep thanks go out to Anna Frisch & Ana De Matos for their advice & support.
Aine Sheehan for her assistance in realising this chairs prototype upholstery
& Joanna Williams & Jennifer Wingfield @ Flock for their support
Bute Fabrics for their swift response and great service
and mostly to Paul & Lizzie for giving me the opportunity.