Dutch Designer Piet Hein Eek Creates Fair Trade Bowls
Photo: L. Scott
Piet Hein Eek is the Dutch furniture designer who is best known for his furniture made out of pieces of scrap wood. Each piece is one of a kind, made out of reclaimed materials. Years ago they were funky and affordable, now they are serious decorator fare.
Now he has turned his hand to designing some reasonably priced bowls made out of palm wood from Vietnam. He has worked with traditional craftspeople there to produce this minimalist but enticing range of platters and dishes.
Piet Hein Eek first developed an interest in old materials after restoring a cupboard for his sister; he thought the old wood looked nicer than the new. He has built his business around old materials, saving these discarded pieces of wood and working outside of the mass production market.
With this philosophy of avoiding mass production and embracing traditional manufacturing techniques, his Fair Trade Original Netherlands line was a natural meeting of the minds.
For the Vietnamese woodworkers, palmwood from palm trees is widely available but difficult to work with because it warps easily. Using the advice, and craftsmanship, of traditional craftspeople in Vietnam, he came up with a clever design solution. The baskets are made of thin slats that expand and are held together with transparent thread, using knots learned from local fishermen. They have been made by a team of 300 craftspeople who belong to the MAI Vietnamese Handicrafts association, and 30% of the proceeds are donated to scholarships for Vietnamese students.
In an interview in Dwell, he was asked if he considered himself a "sustainable designer?"
He said: "The major thing is that you make durable things. For me, it's about quality and creating a look that is timeless rather than a design that is fashionable. Most of our furniture gets old in a beautiful way."
He purposely takes a lot of time and effort with these pieces. " Because of time you also throw a lot of material away, even if you're efficient. That's why we started making use of the leftovers and we started making products that take a lot of time. The whole essence with these was, the more time it takes, the better. When it came time to finish, we lacquered it ten times, just to exaggerate the process time. This gave it a very strong visual and tactile effect, which was successful immediately, but purely came out of the idea of exaggerating time in order to turn the world upside down."
These bulky and solid benches were made after purchasing a big quantity of beams. After much research, he came up with these benches and armchairs that are a big green statement. The benches are made from one or two old beams and in order not to spoil the wood, the length of the benches is determined by the size of the beams. Not sure about the comfort, mind you.