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Kintsugi is the centuries-old Japanese craft of reassembling and gilding broken china. It shouldn't be confused with merely repairing, but rather celebrating – honouring the fissures and the brokenness by enhancing it with gold. Kintsugi transforms a dropped tea cup from an unusable everyday object into a piece of art.
In throw-away-and-buy-another North America, we risk losing the ability to see the beauty in what's broken. But a brave new wave of furniture designers are not only embracing this ethos, they're having fun wreaking destruction on the world of clean lines and straight edges.
Path of destruction
Lennart Van Uffelen’s broken furniture line is called #FKF (Functionality Kills the Fun), which gives an indication of what to expect. Playful and dramatic, yet still somewhat functional, the pieces ask the viewer to imagine a story. For Tafel.01, the Belgian designer and furniture maker takes his own handcrafted axe to his simple, ash wood table, hacking out a leg and replacing it with the tool. In Kast.03, a cabinet with a lamp through it, Van Uffelen explains: “Two items linked to each other by everyday use become one dual functioning item whilst telling a story about a domestic quarrel involving a spear-throwing electrician.” Prices upon request. lennartvanuffelen.be
Falling into place
Occupying the space between art and utility, sculpture and furniture, Bhanga Bronze, by French artist Vincent Dubourg, is striking in both its beauty and destruction. Dubourg builds each unit without a design plan. Instead, he crafts and assembles the materials – he works with glass blowing, wood bending and metal casting in aluminum and bronze – without a predetermined outcome. His process freezes the chaos of the moment of destruction. Limited edition of eight available; price upon request. carpentersworkshopgallery.com
Up in flames
Maarten Baas pushes boundaries while exploring the abstract, the profound, the silly and the sublime. For his Where There’s Smoke series, he started with a question: “What happens to a piece of furniture when you treat it in a way that is neither a should or an intention?” So Baas started a fire. “I burnt it. The shape and asymmetry were altered and the surface carbonized. I took care that the chair was still a chair. This new beauty was finished with a transparent epoxy resin to make it useful again. In a way, it was a sacrifice to enter a new chapter.” A few select pieces have been produced by Dutch manufacturer Moooi. The Smoke Dining Chair is available with or without arms. $2,395 to $3,310. klausn.com
Three in one
This bespoke concrete bench, from Israeli designer Itay Ohaly’s Fracture project, starts out whole then is broken into three chairs, making each one distinctive. Ohaly was researching what he calls the “natural aesthetics of fractures” when he was invited to show this piece at Israel’s Design Museum Holon. Price upon request. ohaly.com