My interest in textiles has grown over the last few years, but I have always been intrigued by the relationship between form and tactility. I find myself surrounded by items that have many tactile qualities. My go-to, immediate, feel-good experience is my dog’s soft ears.
I studied sculpture and fine art, so from the start I have approached design from an artistic perspective, informed by that study of aesthetics and materiality. I transitioned into the design world by utilizing my knowledge in metal-casting processes and production to make door handles and other commissions. I don’t subscribe to the idea that you are an artist or a designer. The creative process is embedded within and can be applied to many outcomes. It’s more a question of trying to be disciplined and focused on a specific area of expertise.
For me, design is often a slow process. I gather images of interesting textures, materials, shapes, and forms; visit art galleries; spend time in my studio with things I have collected. An idea will percolate in my mind for a long time before it gets to the point where I can begin development. There is a lot of complexity in design that is usually invisible to anyone not directly involved in the process. It’s one thing to design something, another thing to actually make it—and make it successfully. It often involves a lot of collaboration. Working with other designers and specialists who really understand their materials and how to manipulate them is one of the most satisfying aspects of what I do.
A good textile applied by a skilled upholsterer is akin to a good cloth being cut and stitched by a good tailor. “Dressing” an object is an art form and should not be overlooked or underestimated. A textile can elevate an object or obliterate it. In recent years, I’ve been working with the idea of a lounge chair—something light and flexible that fits into almost any kind of space. The Lucio has been a real lesson in the true value of upholstery textiles. The textile gives the form life, like a skin, and can reveal so many possibilities for the design.
Sebastian Wrong is the design director of Established & Sons, a London-based platform for experimental contemporary design. Maharam’s New York City creative headquarters is hosting a special Established & Sons residency to mark the international debut of their Live/Work collection through fall 2021.