This beautiful and luminous cork furniture was being shown at the London Design Festival in association with Craft Central. Made by furniture maker Joe Pipal, it was lovingly exhibited alongside a display which offered an explanation of cork and its roots and described the background of the materials and construction of the pieces.
The pieces were made with three materials: cork, oak and wenge. The cork was from Portugal and is used in its natural state and in the form of recycled bottle stoppers. The oak is European and the wenge is from reclaimed parquet flooring.
Cork in its various forms.
Joe Pipal is fascinated with cork. He remembers it from his family kitchen where it was used as tiles. Then he studied its usage and worked with a furniture maker to develop his skills. He loves it because it is "heat resistant, a good sound insulator, buoyant, naturally elastic and lightweight."
Its usage has been documented since the Egyptians. Ancient Greeks used it for buoys and floats for fishing and the soles of their sandals.
Wenge is a West African wood which is now an endangered species. This wenge is taken from old parquet flooring from a famous London building, the Baltic Exchange.
Image from BBC
The Exchange was a shipping exchange built in 1903. In 1992 it was bombed by the IRA killing three people and the old building lay empty until its contents were sold. It was hoped that it would be dismantled and reconstructed elsewhere. Ultimately it was bought by Estonians, to be relocated there some day.
The bottle stoppers have been collected from the near-by restaurant St. John Bread and Wine. Pipal is concerned not only with the creation but also the provenance of what he is creating. The beauty of the materials is an important part of his work. Recycled corks are delicately included in this table.
These wall hangings or screens are also made of recycled corks and mounted on wood. : Joe Pipal