Eventually Everything Connects

Disegno #19 (2018)

Image courtesy of Kvadrat.

CLAY HAEMATITE
“[Haematite has] had such continuous use in all periods of painting and in all parts of the world that it is unnecessary to go into details concerning [its] history and occurrence in paintings”

Bottles, pots, pitchers and tubes with cork stoppers / tinctures from Glyco and plaster lime Florence / pasted with labels and fine twists of string / these are a few of the pigmented things.

And that’s just the apparatus.1 If you want to see the really good stuff in the Forbes Pigment Collection, you need to unstop those bottles and tubes. “We have dragon’s blood, which is from the rotang plant,” says curator Narayan Khandekar, a softly spoken art historian with wire glasses, thick black hair and a mandarin collar. “Indian lac from cochineal beetles; Indian yellow from the urine of cows fed only on mango leaves; Tyrian purple, which comes from a mollusc and was used by Roman senators. We also have a bit of mummy from Roberson [the 19th-century British artists’ supply firm].” Julie Andrews’s whiskers on kittens pale in comparison.

The Forbes Pigment Collection was founded in 1910 by Edward Waldo Forbes, the art historian who initiated the field of technical art history and its study of artworks through material properties. Today, the collection is housed at Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and contains some 3,000 pigment samples, variously derived from animals, minerals, plants and synthetic chemicals. From medieval lapis lazuli, to Anish Kapoor’s nanotube-packed Vantablack, the collection is a material resource for understanding the pigments and techniques used by artists throughout history. “We use our pigments as a standard,” says Khandekar. “The collection is our reference library and we use it to understand what materials an artist used, how they used them, and how those materials change over time.”

Over the course of its 108 years, the archive has swollen with synthetic additions and with further natural pigments collected during field expeditions. “There is a pigment called clay haematite that I collected in deep Outback Australia,” says Khandekar. “We dodged crocodiles – and I’m not kidding about that – to bring back a sample. It’s a light clay with a slightly blueish tone, and then there are red [haematite] particles inside that. The red and the blue combine to create a purple-ish tone.”

Despite Khandekar’s derring-doo, however, the collection is primarily an academic resource, as well as a pedagogical tool. “When I talk to people about the pigments, I point out that everything in this building has been coloured in some way,” he says. “Somebody has made a choice of colour, which is something people don’t necessarily think about.”

In 2018, however, the collection began to stretch this research remit by participating in its first design project – a series of textiles created by the Los Angeles designer Jonathan Olivares for fabric brand Kvadrat, each of which owes its hue to one of 16 pigments drawn from the Forbes archive. “This was
a brand-new experience,” says Khandekar. “It was something that Edward Forbes would never have predicted.”

  1. Well, bar the Glyco and plaster lime Florence, admittedly. But I couldn’t get the line to scan without them, so they had to stay. I mean, just try and write a version of ‘My Favourite Things’ about a pigment collection and not use plaster lime Florence – can’t be done.



COPPER
“Freshly worked copper has a lustre and takes a bright polish, but it is soon tarnished when exposed to the air”

Copper is a highly reactive material. It alloys with other metals to create materials such as brass (when combined with zinc), bronze (tin) and rose gold (gold), and reacts easily to form richly coloured minerals like blue azurite and green malachite. In anthropomorphised design parlance, then, copper is a natural collaborator – a metal ever-ready to slip its elemental chemistry and enter into new partnerships. In this sense, Jonathan Olivares seems to have a soupçon of copper within his Platonic soul. “Every project that I do, I think of as a triangle of partnerships,” he says. “It can’t just be me and a client. It has to be me, a client and some other entity. Whether that’s an architect, a specialised factory, or whatever, there has to be some learning going on. I think that trifecta is really powerful as a tool, because it ends up with results I could never get on my own.”

Olivares has, he explains, always sought out opportunities to expand his knowledge. Having grown up in Boston in the 1980s and 1990s, in the early 2000s he attempted a liberal arts education at his native city’s Boston College and New York’s Parsons, The New School, before realising that something was amiss. “I felt that literature and philosophy were just...” he muses. “Well, I needed to get my hands dirty.”

While studying at Parsons, a chance meeting with the Brooklyn-based designer Stephen Burks introduced Olivares to the work of Charles and Ray Eames, which served as a kind of mid-century modern metanoia. “I had no idea what design was [before then],” he says. “But once I knew, it was pretty immediate[...]: that’s what I wanted to do.” Olivares left Parsons and joined the industrial design programme at New York’s Pratt Institute. “They were old school,” he says laughing, and when Olivares laughs it is pleasingly deep and chugging, like a motor turning over. “You were just drafting, prototyping, welding and making in the workshop. Most of the classes you’d take were like, ‘Make a vacuum cleaner.’”

Post-graduation, Olivares broadened his practice in 2006 when he accepted an eight-month apprenticeship at designer Konstantin Grcic’s Munich studio, where his interest in collaboration began to pupate. Grcic runs each of his projects as a partnership with an apprentice in his studio and credits them as such. It is an environment that militates against the prevailing vision of a designer as a lone genius and instead acknowledges the variety of inputs that shape a final outcome. “You couldn’t be there if you were working for him,” says Olivares. “You could only be there and help him if you were working for yourself. He was genuinely looking for you to instigate and react.”

This methodology, extrapolated out of the studio and shifted into the world of external collaborators, has become Olivares’s modus operandi. “I go to factories or institutes; I meet with architects or producers, and then I start connecting the dots,” he says. “I really view my work as a dot connector and I want to get fed by a process, because in terms of design I don’t sketch and I don’t just sit down and start drawing up ideas. Like, you couldn’t get me to subjectively choose 18 colours out of nowhere. It just wouldn’t happen.



GREEN EARTH
“It occurs rather widely but that which is suitable for a pigment is found only in restricted areas”

Anders Byriel, CEO of Kvadrat, enters. He is ready and willing to make Jonathan Olivares choose 18 colours out of nowhere.

Anders We see maybe only one to two out of every ten designers who are good at colour. People are good at designing, but colour is a unique competence to be extraordinary on.

Interviewer What’s difficult about it?

Anders You need to bring an idea of where colour could go – a personal vision or individual inspirations. For example, we worked with Nanna Ditzel in the 1960s, Finn Sködt in the 1980s, and Giulio Ridolfo when he introduced intertones in the 2000s. Those were designers who were good with colour.

The interviewer nods. He wants to hide the fact that he doesn’t know what intertones are.

Interviewer Sure.

Anders They’ve been very influential.

Interviewer (Trying to change the subject) So what personal approach does Jonathan bring to colour?

Anders Well, you could say Jonathan is not going for a walk in the forest to find inspiration. We see him as one of the designers who could define his generation because he’s always thinking about how to build something and considering things on a very industrial level. He’s refreshing because I don’t think we have ever seen his kind of scientific approach to colour. He’s very old school; very how it should be.

Interviewer But to date, all of Jonathan’s design work has been monochrome.

Anders Yeah, but in fact it was him who came to us with the idea of a collection exploring colour! We were actually a little worried for him.

The interviewer nods sympathetically. He hopes it will all be OK.



CHROMITE
“[From the metal] chromium[...] are derived more pigments and a greater colour range than from any other single element”

Olivares’s suggestion for the collection of colours developed from his first contact with the Forbes Pigment Collection. This came through a friendship with the art historian Thomas Lentz who served as director of the Harvard Art Museums between 2003 and 2015. “He introduced me, and my first visit to the collection was totally overwhelming,” says Olivares. “I’d always documented my work in white or black, so when I saw this I was like, ‘I need literature. I can’t engage.’”

That kind of reaction to the Forbes Collection is typical. The archive is stored in a series of glass-fronted apothecary cabinets on the fourth floor of the museum, with the pigments huddled inside and arranged as a chromatic scale. Mapico iron oxides; mosaic gold and alizarin green; bone ash, Pompeian blue and Mars orange; burnt umber from Winsor & Newton, yellow beeswax and white manilla – the cabinets offer a record of the methods by which humans have coloured the world around them from antiquity onwards. “Our cabinets used to be wood-fronted, but in 2014 we wanted to arrange the pigments so they made visual sense and so we put them in a glass-fronted cabinet that was visible to the gallery-visiting public,” says Khandekar. “All of a sudden we got so much attention.”

While the collection has long been a resource for visiting artists, the approach from Olivares was the first time that a designer had made contact. “Tom [Lentz] knew that Jonathan was working on a project for Kvadrat and that he wanted to know about pigments,” says Khandekar. “Normally we don’t embark on commercial ventures, but I trust Tom, and Jonathan’s research-based approach made us feel muc more comfortable about entering into a collaboration. So, I invited Jonathan to come and have a look at the pigments, and we moved forward from there.”

“Narayan suggested some very expensive, scholarly volumes [about pigments], which I ordered from Amazon,” says Olivares, “one of which still hasn’t arrived. I haven’t yet had time to check to see whether I was charged for that.”



MALACHITE
“It was used much in trees and foliage”

Books and research have been ever-present in Olivares’s practice. For the purposes of documenting this article, the photographer Ramak Fazel was dispatched to Olivares’s house in Los Angeles with a brief to take the designer’s portrait. Olivares and Fazel are friends, but the shoot was complicated by the fact that Olivares had given himself a black eye while skateboarding. “I collided with another skater coming around a bend at a skate plaza,” emailed Olivares. “Didn’t hurt at all really, just a very black eye! Looks very professional ;-)” The pair decided that sunglasses would provide a suitable cover-up and so shot outside. A few days later, Fazel sent an email detailing his reflections on the shoot: “It was just the two of us shuffling between the balcony and street front of his house on a hill. The conversation turned to plants [and maybe] Jonathan is at a juncture in his practice as a designer where his developing maturity directs his gaze towards less plastic forms. His interest in the botanical life pressing against the contours of his house was refreshing.[...] He was simply curious as though admitting to himself for the first time that he could learn as much from a jade tree or a bottle bush as he could from a monograph of [a] designer’s work.”

The irony is that Olivares, of all contemporary designers, seems to value words and writing as a design tool more than most. To date he has produced four books – 2011’s research project A Taxonomy of Office Chairs; a 2016 monograph of the designer Richard Sapper; 2015’s Source Material; and 2017’s Jonathan Olivares Selected Works – as well as a series of articles and essays for Domus, Metropolis, Abitare, Ultra Journal and Verities. In fact, Olivares’s written output is more familiar to many than his objects.

Since founding his practice in 2006, Olivares’s output of industrial design has been comparatively slight: the Smith table-caddy-cum-cart for Danese, which won a Compasso d’Oro in 2011; the Territorio seating platform for the same company; the aluminium Olivares chair for Knoll; and a customisable aluminium extrusion bench for Zahner, are chief amongst his objects. “It’s probably to do with the fact I’m working in the United States,” he says. “There aren’t 20 cool companies wanting to make things here and I can only spend so much time on an airplane.” Olivares’s writings, however, have established him as a design critic and thinker par excellence, with notable texts including his gloriously experimental ‘Impressions from Walmart’ poem (“If the body replaces all of its fat cells every ten years / then how long does it take to sell everything in this store?”) and his state of the union-esque 2007 report on American manufacture, ‘The US Furniture Industry’.

“But I’m not a writer,” says Olivares. “In fact, I hate it when people say ‘designer and writer’. You would never say that Rem Koolhaas is a writer because he wrote Delirious New York. I’ve always found it really offensive that people don’t imagine that these things are a part of [my design work], because I think of my texts as a part of the design process.” On one reading, this distinction might be seen a matter of semantics and personal preference – a decision to parcel off writing rather than award it the same primacy as design. Another view, however, is that Olivares’s literary reticence says something about the manner in which he conceives of the design process. Olivares has a tendency to theorise his projects. The Smith cart, which can be wheeled around and then suspended from a table, is not just a table caddy, for instance, but an effort to “set a new behaviour around office carts, which are quite mundane[...] and sprinkle some action into the [typology]”. The Zahner bench, meanwhile, is an elegantly serviceable practical design, but also positioned as a continuation of “America’s legacy of cast-iron seating for railway cars and steel cabinets that were fireproof” because of the 1871 Great Chicago Fire.

Olivares’s objects rarely operate on a purely aesthetic or functional level, but are instead geared towards (and explicitly communicated as) expressing a set narrative – be it industrial or cultural, or some combination of the two. “The problem is I get bored easily,” he explains, “and the opportunity to pass on knowledge through my work is exciting.” In this respect, Olivares’s understanding of industrial design is essentially outward-looking: an effort to connect manufacture and mass-produced forms with aspects of the wider world. With this in mind, writing’s facility for expressing ideas becomes an essential component of his design practice. “I approach an essay and the design of an object or space in largely the same way,” writes Olivares in Selected Works. “[There] is a thesis, a subject matter, a material or format, and, finally, the development of these ideas and forms through the editing process.”



GRAPHITE
“A crystalline form of carbon”

Beyond committed Freud and Jung fetishists, few people buy daybeds anymore. “You never get a commission for a daybed,” confirms Olivares. “In fact, I remember having conversations with Knoll and Vitra about daybeds: ‘Daybeds? Yeaaah, we don’t really sell daybeds.’” Regardless, here’s the tale of how Jonathan Olivares defied contemporary taste and designed a daybed that later gave birth to a pigment range. Our story begins in the 1940s.

In 1942, the modernist architect Philip Johnson completed his first built work, a house at 9 Ash Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Johnson submitted the structure as his thesis project to Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD), and the building came to serve as a kind of dry run for Johnson’s later Mies van der Rohe-inflected Glass House in New Haven, Connecticut. Nine Ash Street has a glass-fronted facade, and a rectangular, open-plan structure that leads out onto a courtyard whose perimeter fence is the same height as the house’s walls, thereby shielding the property from the street. The structure itself is supporte by a series of caramel-coloured wooden columns produced by New England mast-makers, steel having been at a premium during the war years.

Following a string of private owners, the house was acquired by the GSD in 2010, which soon sought to restore and refurbish it, Johnson having donated all of its original furniture to MoMA. Given that Olivares had previously lectured at the GSD, he was asked to contribute a piece as part of this replenishment. “It was a pretty open project,” he says. “I looked at photos of how Johnson had originally laid out the house. The biggest piece of furniture was a Mies van der Rohe Barcelona daybed and what I found really compelling when I visited were the masts being used as columns [in the house]. So, I got the idea that we should d a daybed and I contacted [Hall Composites] a mast-making outfit in New England [to help make it]. But today, masts are no longer made in wood. They’re made in carbon fibre. So that’s when I thought a) That’s going to be a really expensive bed and b) We’re going to need a cushion.



ORPIMENT
“It sometimes appears to have a fibrous structure”

Whereas van der Rohe’s 1929 leather Barcelona daybed is stately and sumptuous – a field of tufted leather whose clubhouse richness is redolent of its creator’s Dunhill cigar habit – Olivares’s 2016 Twill Weave daybed is a somewhat lighter affair. The bed is produced from a set of narrow carbon-fibre legs and crossbeams, which are manufactured using mast-making mandrels. A flat, flexible sheet of carbon fibre then hooks on top to form the bed’s surface. In this sense, the design is chimerical. It is rigid and structural (“You could park a car on this and it would be fine,” says Olivares, twanging his hand up and down on it),1 but its mass is formed from a material that is, to all intents and purposes, a textile.

“Carbon fibre is woven, so the whole object is cloth,” says Olivares. The daybed’s fibres are bound with an epoxy that eschews the usual high gloss of carbon fibre in favour of a matt finish that rasps to the touch. “It’s [achieved through] a product called Peel Ply, which they apply to the carbon before heating it,” he explains. “If you put butter in a pan, melt it, then let it dry, that glossiness is what normal epoxy looks like. This, by contrast, is like if you were to put butter in a pan, put cheesecloth on top, and then let it dry – you’re going to be left with the texture of the cheesecloth.” To complement this structure, Olivares contacted Kvadrat about developing a textile that might be used to upholster the piece’s cushion. “As I got to know the twill weave of the carbon fibre, I began to realise that textiles are structure,” he says. “Actually, textiles are probably more ‘architecture’ than a steel-tube coffee table, which is what I love about them.” Subsequently, Olivares worked with Kvadrat to produce a woollen fabric that mimicked both the colouration of carbon, and the diagonal twill knit of the fibre. “What’s great is for people to put that Twill Weave fabric up against the carbon fibre and see the similarity, because the cloth-like nature of the carbon fibre is what made the project make sense,” says Olivares. “But of course, they don’t have to. That would be a bit fascist if I said otherwise.”

  1. Although good luck getting it past security at 9 Ash Street. The GSD has it locked down like Fort Knox.



GOLD
“Gold was used quite freely in panel paintings where brilliance and luminosity were demanded”

The narrative structure behind the emergence of a textile collection, as told by Jonathan Olivares.

Exposition Twill Weave daybeds are not cheap. There’s not a lot of mechanisation around carbon fibre, and carbon itself is not cheap. So if you multiply an expensive material by expensive labour, you end up with a pretty expensive outcome. Kvadrat graciously sponsored the daybed for the Johnson house, but the manufacturer’s minimum order was six pieces. So there are only six daybeds.

Rising Action When you produce something that is widely distributed, you really touch the world, which
is what draws me to mass production. America, in particular, is a raw country. There’s not a safety net for a lot of people and in that landscape, a piece of design that touches people and is generous is pretty cool. I always get excited when I receive my royalty statements from past projects and think, “Oh, that’s another thousand asses going to touch my chair every day.” If there can be [a piece of design] that is comfortable and gracious and well-thought-of in that environment, that’s a way of passing on some care.

Climax We knew that we wanted to commercialise the Twill Weave textile, but I had to produce colours and, honestly, I was at a total loss. I’ve never had to choose colours before because companies usually do that for you. So, what do you do? Get some magazines and go shopping for some colours? That’s so boring:
I don’t ever want to have to look at stuff and think, “Hmm, what’s nice?” I’d rather be skateboarding.

Falling Action The realisation came that if I were going to choose more colours, there needed to be
a connection to carbon, which comes from the earth’s crust. I started to realise that the colours I have always avoided in my monochromatic practice were actually products designed by other designers, whereas this could be a way of finding colours that have very few areas of human intervention.

Dénoument  I spent about six months procrastinating and buying myself time with various excuses, and then I found the Forbes Pigment Collection.



AZURITE
“It has long since ceased to be of importance in Western painting, and is rarely used today”

In 1947, the industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss raised a question: “Is California, where youthful thinking and new ideals are encouraged and fostered, destined to become the world’s new design centre?” Certainly, the number of leading designers and architects working in Los Angeles at that time seemed to bear Dreyfuss out: Charles and Ray Eames, Rudolph Schindler, John Lautner, Raphael Soriano, Richard Neutra, Harry Bertoia and Rudi Gernreich, to name just a few.

Today, while architecture in Los Angeles remains relatively healthy, the city’s stock of designer has dwindled. “There’s no designer in Los Angeles [today] apart from Don Chadwick,” says Olivares, who has based himself in the city since 2012. “But what we do have is excellent manufacturing – you can get everything from state-of-the-art precision milling to sloppy fibreglass. Greater Los Angeles is the largest industrial hub in the United States; you can make anything quickly, cheaply and with a smile.”

Which is one reason why a designer might set up shop there. For Olivares, another lure is the aura of anonymity afforded by the city. “LA is a city with no history, and I felt it was as far away from Europe as you could get before you hit Asia,” he says. “It’s free from tradition and culturally lawless: You can walk around in flip-flops, with a tank-top, drinking a Slurpee, listening to Metallica and nobody will judge you.” Which is something of a man-on-the-street restatement of the critic Reyner Banham’s 1960s assessment of the city: “The unique value of Los Angeles – what excites, intrigues and sometimes repels me – is that it offers radical alternatives to almost every urban concept in unquestioned currency.”

Most vitally to Olivares, the city has afforded a radically different kind of space into which his practice might grow. “When I started my studio, I had assistants for the first five or six years like Konstantin’s office, because that was what I thought a thriving practice looked like,” he explains. “It wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles that I shed that way of thinking. For a few years now, my practice has just been me – no staff, no physical office. It’s lean and mean, and if I want to build a mock-up I can just rent a garage for two months and close it afterwards. It lets me be a designer in the world, rather than a designer in the studio.”

One model for this approach, Olivares explains, is Hollywood film and prop – a world in which products are assembled by disparate groups brought together on a project-by-project basis. “That’s a multibillion- dollar industry producing art,” he says, “and it could be argued that that same description applies to design. I really believe that the economy is heading towards project teams in every industry. Look at Frank Gehry’s [Cross Check] chair for Knoll, which I love. That wasn’t made in Gehry’s office – they rented a studio, hired a shop technician, and had a couple of other guys working full-time on it for two years. Richard Sapper was the design director for IBM for 20 years. He did all of his meetings sat on his lawn by Lake Como. That freedom is something I like. Now I have no studio, I can work wherever I want. If I’m going to do colour, then I might as well work at one of the world’s best research institutes on colour.”



INDIGO
“The synthetic product has almost entirely replaced the natural”

“In many ways it’s a fool’s errand to try and describe visual art with words,” says Khandekar. “Colour is something you look at and then try to describe, but the words aren’t there.” As such, the development of the Twill Weave textile collection had to operate as a predominantly visual affair. “Narayan became my guide in that world,” says Olivares, “because saying that I’m going to design colours based on a pigment collection is highly subjective. It is so, so esoteric but also, I hope, very poetic and instinctual.”

Initially, Olivares made a selection of some 50 to 70 pigments from the collection’s archive, before narrowing it down to a final 16.1 These were photographed and printed as colour chips. “One of the things that is amazing about textiles is that they’re very three-dimensional, and minerals are also very three- dimensional, both in terms of their form and how light reflects off them,” says Olivares. Through studying these points of light reflection, Olivares and Khandekar were able to select high values and low values from each of their chosen minerals, which might then be mapped to warp and weft threads. Through the combination of two tones per mineral, the intention was that each textile’s threads would blend to create an overall colour balance reflective of the mineral that had inspired it.

“Jonathan produced a series of colour chips and came back three or four times to ensure he was staying on track and what he was producing actually looked like the pigment and served as a representation of what he was seeing,” says Khandekar. “We just kept going until we had chips which we felt were a good representation of the mineral,” adds Olivares. “Then those chips got sent to the dye house. What’s ironic is that we went to such an effort to find natural colours, and then the dye house’s job is to figure out
how to reproduce them using a bunch of chemicals.”

In 1704, Prussian blue, the world’s first synthetic pigment, was produced. It quickly replaced natural blue pigments such as indigo, while the industrial revolution soon synthesised similar dyes for other colours. “In 1856 William Perkin created an aniline dye for mauve,” says Khandekar, “and this process picked up speed towards the end of the 19th century with the emergence of the first synthetic dyes.”

In this respect, the Twill Weave collection is mournful – textiles serving as the phantom limbs of natural pigments long since replaced by synthetic counterparts. Olivares, however, offers an alternative, more hopeful interpretation. “The textiles are representations of the natural pigments, but those natural pigments are representations themselves,” he says. “Historically, they were used to represent real life. These pigments were not being used when Rothko was painting, they were around 300 or 400 years ago with the Dutch masters, and [so, in the history of art] they are inherently representational – none of them were used to be themselves.”

  1. The level of colour variation across azurite and malachite meant that these minerals produced two and three textiles respectively.



REALGAR
“It was confused by the ancients with red lead because it resembles it in colour”

This kind of play with representation as the rationale underpinning Olivares’s designs for Kvadrat has been there since the beginnings of the Twill Weave textiles. From the creation of the carbon-fibre daybed onwards, Twill Weave was intended not only as a commercial collection, but also as a series of reflections surrounding ideas of material mimesis and representation, and a comment on a particular moment in design history.

“If you look at the history of furniture, [Charles] Eames and Eero Saarinen are the gold standard of what you might call furniture designers in the United States,” says Olivares. In the late 1930s, while both were based at Cranbrook Academy in Michigan, Saarinen and Eames collaborated on a research project looking at moulded plywood in furniture production, a process that culminated with the presentation of their Organic chair in 1940. “But then [their partnership] split,” says Olivares, “and the cause of that rift was that Saarinen wanted to achieve total objects.” When Saarinen began developing his Tulip seat system for Knoll in the 1950s, for instance, he admitted that one of his goals was “to clear up the slum of legs” and “make the chair all one thing again”. While the Tulip’s base was made in aluminium and its seat in fibreglass, both parts were presented in the same shade of white, such that the chair manifested as a single sculptural object. Eames, by contrast, adhered to an Arts and Crafts inspired dictum of truth to materials. “Let’s celebrate the differences and let wood be wood, metal be metal, and plastic be plastic,” summarises Olivares. “They’re separate and so they look different.”

The Twill Weave project is Olivares’s attempt for furniture design to land somewhere between these duelling horns of Eames and Saarinen. “What got me excited with the daybed was that I realised we were getting to this moment where both Eames and Saarinen would be right,” says Olivares. “You celebrate the differences of the material – the carbon fibre is the carbon fibre, the textile is the textile – but you’re not faking anything. You’re just engineering those materials in a way that they’re visually homogenous. You get the total object coming out of Saarinen’s idea, and the difference of materials coming out of the Eames project. I think we’re solving the argument, which is the kind of thing I like to entertain myself with.”



INDIAN LAC
“A natural organic red dyestuff”

Amongst the 16 minerals that made it through to Olivares’s final collection, there is, however, an outlier. “It’s the fly in the ointment,” says Olivares. “The beetle in the ointment.”

Indian Lac is a deep-red colourant extracted from the secretions of the lac-insect, which develop inside of a resinous cocoon of their own excretion. These outflowings, once suitably refined, are also the source of the material shellac. Needless to say, neither shellac, nor Indian lac, nor lac insects, are minerals. Not by a long stretch.

“I thought it looked good, so I just ended up taking it through to the end,” says Olivares. “It wasn’t until I read Narayan’s description of it that I realised. Narayan!!!”

“He said it was such a nice colour that he had to use it,” says Khandekar. “He weakened.”