William Warren

London based product and furniture designer

The Elves and the Chairmakers

One factory, 5 Designers, and 2 days.

On a sleepy weekend in early June this year, five designers visited the famous Lloyd Loom of Spalding factory. Whilst the assembly workers were away, and assisted by two of Lloyd Loom’s loyal craftsmen, the designers with no set agenda, helped themselves to standard components, experimented and reinterpreted. Over the intense and frantic two days, thirteen new concepts were conceived and left in the factory showroom for the staff to find on Monday morning.

The body of work shown here is the development of the best of those pieces. They are production ready prototypes that respond to the history and preserve the heritage that is the Lloyd Loom of Spalding famous paper weave.

I chose to organise this exercise to condense the long drawn-out process that typically comes with developing new designs for big established companies. The quick process meant the designers were full of enthusiasm and it ensured that all the new concepts generated would be almost production ready.  That is – if the prototypes were made in the factory then reproducing them should be easy.

The frames of traditional Lloyd Loom furniture are assembled from complex steam-bent wooden components. This amazing engineering in wood is normally hidden under the weave and then often painted over, the designers were keen to make more of this hidden structure. By cutting and combining these stock wooden bends in new ways each designer was able to ‘sketch’ full size in 3D, avoiding the need for drawing or computer modeling.

Lloyd Loom of Spalding using traditional techniques refined back in the 1930s still use looms that take paper twisted into cord and weave it into their iconic upholstery fabric. The design group became fascinated in the way this woven material moved and stretched over their shaped wooden frames, creating dynamic compound curves. Experiments also looked at the material’s transparency, inherent strength and potential for flexible comfort.

The prototype ‘sketches’ that came out of the weekend opened up an enthusiastic dialogue with Lloyd Loom, and seven pieces were selected to be taken forward for further development. The resulting prototypes were shown in September during London Design Festival at Design Junction and Decorex ready for feedback and production in January.

The list of designers and their final pieces are:

Carl Clerkin: Saddle Rocker. An informal rocking seat without a front or back. This piece is a long way from the current Lloyd Loom range and sits somewhere between a toy and a stool.

Chris Eckersley: ‘Spalding’ armchair. A low tub chair with a loose cushion. The back/arms formed from a parabolic curve which  introduces a new shape to a distinctly Lloyd Loom chair.

Gareth Neal: ‘Tomlinson’ armchairs. With one simple and gracious flowing component. This pair of his and hers loungers are perfect company to the Lloyd Loom Range.

Amos Marchant: ‘Reading’ High backed reading chair. A large enclosed private chair with a cuff of woven material around its top.

William Warren: ‘LL’ stacking chair, for café, restaurant or domestic use.

William Warren: ‘Paper’ Dining chair and Barstool. Concealed metal fixings offer strength to a simple dowel structure. The archetypal curved chair back is presented in an innovative way.

WilliamWarren: ‘Paper’ Sofa and Armchair. High backed upholstered seating with spindle supported back.

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