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Innovative Craftsmanship: Transformative Furniture Designs Emerge from the Artistry of Cardboard Creations

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Unveiling Artistry: Mayfair's Gallery Fumi Debuts Innovative Cardboard Furniture Collection

In the opulent confines of London's Mayfair, a surprising and innovative exhibition is turning heads at Gallery Fumi. The latest collection, named "Box," challenges conventional perceptions of furniture by showcasing creations crafted entirely from an unexpected material: cardboard. Designed by British furniture visionary Max Lamb, this collection transforms discarded cardboard boxes, once destined for disposal in his studio, into a unique and captivating array of chairs and tables.

Lamb, expressing his reluctance to discard items, shares, "I find it very difficult to throw things away." He discovers beauty in the discarded, in objects that have fulfilled their original purpose and have been cast aside. Despite cardboard being one of the most economical and commonly discarded materials, it is increasingly becoming a medium of choice for designers aiming to create both high-end and affordable furniture.

In the construction of "Box," Lamb meticulously cut, folded, assembled, and layered the cardboard boxes. The material also serves as the foundation for layers of paper maché, resulting in a collection that seamlessly blends the distinctive aesthetics of cardboard boxes—cubist forms and packaging logos—with unexpected sculptural molding, compositions, and earthy paints. Despite cardboard's perceived fragility, these pieces are engineered for practical use, boasting strength derived from layers of impact-resistant corrugated cardboard and a wheat and water glue-like mixture.

Max Lamb's work contributes to the evolving narrative of cardboard furniture, with notable predecessors such as Frank Gehry's iconic 1972 "Wiggle Side Chair." Inspired by Gehry's early exploration of layered corrugated cardboard, Lamb, a student at the time, created a cardboard table in 2000, a testament to the enduring potential of this unassuming material. Renowned architect Shigeru Ban also embraced cardboard's possibilities, incorporating it into his "Carta" collection (1998–2015), where slim cardboard tubes treated with resin coalesce with traditional materials like birch plywood and glass to form chairs, stools, a chaise longue, and a table.

As Gallery Fumi's "Box" collection takes center stage, it not only challenges the boundaries of conventional design but also pays homage to the timeless allure and resilience of cardboard as a medium for artistic expression in the world of furniture.

Transforming Trash to Treasure: Cardboard's Renaissance in Functional Art and Furniture

Since 2020, Berlin-based Ukrainian artist and designer Illya Goldman Gubin has been reshaping the narrative around misshapen cardboard boxes, infusing them with new life through a unique process involving resin and fiberglass. In his ongoing "Karton" series, Gubin metamorphoses discarded cardboard into unconventional seats, tables, and shelves, blurring the lines between art and functional objects.

Inspired by the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, Gubin embarked on a creative journey to explore creations that not only showcased artistic expression but also invited tactile interaction. The "Karton" series became a testament to the transformative power of art, offering a new dimension that people could touch without any barriers. For Gubin, who fondly recalls childhood days of constructing make-believe homes and cars with cardboard, the material holds sentimental significance. "Cardboard feels simple, yet special," he remarks, expressing a desire to repurpose this humble material to offer support in new and unexpected ways.

Gubin's approach involves using the weight of his own body to mold cardboard boxes into unique, crumpled shapes. While these pieces may resemble glossy sculptures, they remain fully functional as seats or tables. Despite their delicate appearance, Gubin emphasizes their strength, aiming to surprise observers with the juxtaposition of fragility and resilience.

Shifting from individual artistic endeavors to a broader sustainable initiative, the Room in a Box brand, established in 2013, presents a simple and modular solution to cardboard furniture. Designed to be both affordable and environmentally friendly, the German brand utilizes high-grade corrugated cardboard, promising longevity for its pieces—from bed bases to chairs and tables—lasting up to 10 years.

Room in a Box gained widespread attention through TikTok, capturing the interest of a young demographic that values lightweight, easily transportable furniture without compromising environmental ethics. Co-founder Gerald Dissen underscores the brand's commitment to sustainability, emphasizing lower carbon footprints, reduced energy consumption, and the recycled and recyclable nature of their materials.

As cardboard finds its renaissance in the hands of visionary artists like Illya Goldman Gubin and brands like Room in a Box, it transcends its conventional role as packaging material, emerging as a symbol of innovation, sustainability, and the transformative power of creative repurposing.

Cardboard's Dual Role: From High-End Design to Emergency Relief in Refugee Camps

Beyond its emergence as a canvas for high-end design, cardboard plays a vital role in emergency scenarios, particularly in providing quick and deployable furniture solutions for refugees. In 2011, French designers NOCC, in collaboration with entrepreneur Julien Sylvain, introduced the Leaf Bed—a cardboard bed tailored for use in refugee camps. Featuring a straightforward design with pre-cut panels, the bed is shipped with all the necessary tools and parts for easy assembly, making it an accessible and practical option for emergency shelter. Notably, the UN Refugee Agency has deployed the Leaf Bed to address the urgent needs of displaced populations.

Smurfit Kappa, a cardboard manufacturer involved in the production of the Leaf Bed, extended its collaboration with Edinburgh Direct Aid (EDA) in 2017. Together, they sent aid to refugee camps on the Lebanon-Syria border using cardboard boxes that could be converted into emergency furniture. This innovative approach exemplifies how a material often associated with packaging can be repurposed to address critical challenges and provide essential furnishings in times of crisis.

On a day-to-day basis, cardboard serves as an improvised emergency shelter on the streets, where people utilize it as an insulating and protective material. This utilitarian use stands in stark contrast to the collectible design pieces created by artists like Max Lamb, who acknowledges the divergence between his work and the practical, everyday applications of cardboard in emergency situations.

For Lamb, whose creations are considered collectible design pieces with prices available on request, the project represents a critical reflection on the role of the artist as a "producer of stuff." Beyond the artistic realm, he hopes to emphasize the enduring beauty and permanence of cardboard as a material, challenging the notion that items considered secondary should be readily discarded. In doing so, Lamb highlights the potential for cardboard to serve as a lasting and integral part of our lives, transcending its conventional role as a temporary and disposable material.

Cardboard's Multifaceted Role — From Artistic Elegance to Humanitarian Innovation

The journey of cardboard from a canvas for artistic expression to a vital resource in humanitarian efforts showcases its remarkable versatility. While artists like Illya Goldman Gubin and Max Lamb elevate cardboard to high-end design, creating collectible pieces that challenge perceptions, its significance extends far beyond gallery walls.

In emergency situations, cardboard transforms into a practical solution for refugees, offering quick and deployable furniture like the Leaf Bed. French designers NOCC and entrepreneur Julien Sylvain, along with collaborators like Smurfit Kappa and Edinburgh Direct Aid, demonstrate how this humble material can address urgent needs in refugee camps, providing not only shelter but also functional furnishings.

Cardboard's dual identity as a high-end design medium and an essential resource in humanitarian aid underscores its enduring impact. The Leaf Bed, cardboard boxes converted into furniture, and impromptu street shelters emphasize the material's adaptability and resilience. Max Lamb's critical reflection on the role of artists as producers prompts contemplation about the permanence and beauty that cardboard can contribute to our lives.

As cardboard transcends its traditional role, it emerges as a symbol of innovation, sustainability, and creative repurposing. From the elegance of collectible design to the pragmatism of emergency relief, cardboard's journey reflects a harmonious blend of artistic vision and real-world utility, proving that a material often overlooked can be a source of enduring beauty and purpose.

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