Mathias BengtssonFurniture Designer (1971-)
By experimenting with industrial materials and processes, MATHIAS BENGTSSON, the Danish-born, London-based furniture designer produces sculptural furniture which is visually arresting and technically innovative.
When Mathias Bengtsson developed his Slice series of sculptural furniture, he combined the latest computerised laser-cutting techniques with handwork to create a series chairs and chaise longues which make the most of both technology and handcraftsmanship. Having produced the first Slice pieces in plywood, he then adapted the same process for aluminium.
Born in Copenhagen in 1971, Bengtsson studied furniture design at the Danish Design School before moving to London to study at the Royal College of Art. After graduating in 1999, he shared a studio with a fellow RCA student, Sam Buxton, where they worked together as Design Laboratory.
Having exhibited the Slice series and other early work at the Design Museum and the Lowry Centre in Manchester, Bengtsson is now producing a new collection of sculptural furniture using a process of spinning carbon fibre originally used in the aerospace industry from his London studio.
Q. When did you first become aware of – and interested in – design?
A. I think I always was – drawing, taking stuff apart and building stuff. I just didn’t know what it was called. Someone told me I could be a car designer, and I felt I was sorted for the rest of my life.
Q. How has your design education influenced your work?
A. By pushing me, it showed what I could could do if I pushed myself.
Q. How would you describe your approach to design?
A. I have tried to develop my own approach to design and my own idea of what design is or, more interesting, what it could be. My main interest is in making new and different stuff by using the knowledge I collect as an hobby and mainly about technology and how we relate to it.
Q. Who and what inspires your work? Do you draw inspiration in the work of other designers – historic or contemporary –or from work in other fields?
A. Everything about our time inspires me, especially technology and its evolution, because it will dominate our lives in this new century. It will be the future.
Q. Can you describe the development of the Slice series of furniture and how you have applied the concept to different materials?
A. I wanted to change the approach to design. I had to learn computer skills to try out an idea I had developed for a ‘rapid prototyping’ type of manufacturing. It involved using layers cut out of sheet material into complex shapes by a computer-controlled laser. The 2-D layers were then assembled by hand into a 3-D solid form of various shapes and a complexity which would otherwise not have been possible. The Slice series creates hand-made furniture using a computerised industrial process.
Q. Similarly can you describe the development of your new spun carbon fibre pieces? How did you discover that technology and why did you decide to apply it to furniture?
A. Ever since I studied in Denmark, I had tried – and failed – to work with carbon fibre. I discovered the process many years ago. It was used first by NASA and Boeing to manufacture simple objects quickly and inexpensively. Most ‘design objects’ in carbon fibre are made by hand and are very expensive, but this process is applicable to mass-production at a lower price. In my pieces, the pattern of the fibre is designed to produce maximum strength from minimum material as only 20% of the surface is carbon.
Q. What do you consider to be the main obstacles to your development as a designer?
A. Money. Ideas are cheap, but getting the funds to do stuff is difficult and using your own money is stressful. Another problem is changing perceptions of what design is and what it could be. Again this is difficult, because we live in a conservative culture in which too much design is produced without personality or ambition. Yet design offers so many possibilities and so much potential for greater things.
Q. How do you envisage your work developing in the future? What new themes do you intend to explore?
© Design Museum 2002
© Design Museum 2002
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