ÆTHER/MASS deconstructs traditional furniture to build obscure objects
The Lathe Collection
Photo Credit: Courtesy of ÆTHER/MASS
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ÆTHER/MASS deconstructs traditional furniture to build obscure objects

The Belgian studio, helmed by Davy Grosemans, recently unveiled seven sculptural furniture pieces, built in collaboration with Casimir Ateliers and Wim Roggeman.

by Almas Sadique
Published on : Oct 12, 2022

Communal living and collaborative practices have always been some of the most sustainable ways to thrive. Dating back to the beginning of human civilization, community and collaboration, through guilds, stands in contrast to the individualistic style of existence. Sharing resources, skills and materials always means that each individual is valued for what they can offer to contribute as opposed to dishing out all kinds of work without expertise. This is the essence on which Belgium-based practice ÆTHER/MASS is founded. Helmed as a design practice, it straddles the realms of research and experimentation and operates with the intention of platforming designers and makers, thinkers and builders, visionaries and craftsmen. Their intention is simple yet potent—bringing together the vision of thinkers and the skills of artisans and technicians.

ÆTHER/MASS, founded in 2022 by Belgian product and interior designer Davy Grosemans, recently unveiled seven sculptural art pieces in editions of twelve each. This wooden furniture sits under the classification of both functional and sculptural pieces and takes cues from architectural entities and elements. “This collection is the very first embodiment of our design philosophy: handmade objects in search of meaning. Aether turned into mass by transforming ideas into form and matter. In a desire not to restrict myself to a single material, I have experimented with a multitude of materials and processes. To make sure the first collection was on point, I worked with craftsmen I have known for years and of which I knew the end result would be impeccable,” says Davy Grosemans about his furniture design practice.

The two pieces of Parabole Bowl I
The two pieces of Parabole Bowl I Image: Courtesy of ÆTHER/MASS

The seven objects unveiled by the Belgian studio include a chair, a lamp, two bowls and a family of pedestals that can function as stools, side tables or even totems. Each piece serves as an exploration of new and uncharted processes, materials and production techniques. While the Parabole Chair, Parabole Bowl I and II and Lathe I, II and II are created in collaboration with Belgium based woodworkers Casimir Ateliers, the TwentyTwenty lamp is built in close association with Wim Roggeman, an expert when it comes to building custom lighting products.

Parabole Chair
Parabole Chair Image: Courtesy of ÆTHER/MASS

While the pieces in the collection are minimalist, the symbolic meaning they carry is deeper and layered. For instance, the Parabole Chair refers to the function of a chair as a ‘throne’ and hence, the value and power it possessed in older times. Even though this piece of furniture is now an object meant for ordinary everyday usage, the Parabole Chair particularly aims to hint towards its “original function”. Its name refers to the unique detail on its backrest, created by hollowing out the wood. This juxtaposition of solids and voids, chiselled into geometric shapes, makes for an intriguing visage.

Another creation by the studio that also utilises solid and void paraboles is the Parabole Bowl, where two individual pieces can be configured and composed in various ways, to either serve as a shallow bowl, a deep vase or a simple sculptural piece.

Parabole Bowl I in different configurations
Parabole Bowl I in different configurations Image: Courtesy of ÆTHER/MASS

ÆTHER/MASS is a place, a space where repeated experiments are performed in order to redefine the meaning and essence of an object. Individual elements are twisted, turned and distorted to a point where the object takes on a new function, or a point where it retains its original usage and function but takes on a whole new meaning, and hints at a whole new narrative or reference. One of the many ambiguous creations by the studio that also forms part of the collection is the Lathe series. It is ambiguously designed to cater to myriad roles such as that of a stool, a side table, a pedestal or a decorative totem. The three pieces in this series were inspired by the classical turned leg that is often found under many tables from the mid-18th century. Taking these legs and distorting and deconstructing them led to the creation of Lathe I, II and III. Its name comes from the lathe machine which is used to shape wooden and metal objects.

The Lathe series
The Lathe series Image: Courtesy of ÆTHER/MASS
TwentyTwenty lamp
TwentyTwenty lamp Image: Courtesy of ÆTHER/MASS

Lastly, TwentyTwenty, crafted by ÆTHER/MASS with Wim Roggeman, is a lamp design that takes on the shape most commonly used in opal glass lampshades in the 1920s. It still retains its classic shape and form, having been designed in response to the demands of scientific lighting, the principle of form follows function, and the Art Deco and modernist styles. TwentyTwenty, a floor lamp, is built on this shape and features a newly designed and crafted polished brass ring.

Parabole Bowl II
Parabole Bowl II Image: Courtesy of ÆTHER/MASS
Parabole Bowl II laid out like a tray
Parabole Bowl II laid out like a tray Image: Courtesy of ÆTHER/MASS

In search of objects that can embody a meaningful idea while also serving a pragmatic role, Davy Grosemans—who has worked in the creative industry for more than 20 years—plans on building personal and experimental creations in collaboration with expert craftspeople. “I have a background in industrial design. By letting go of the industry dogmas, working with craftsmen has opened a new world of possibilities. It changes your way of thinking and lets you explore materials and processes in a totally different way,” the product designer says.

Lathe stool
Lathe stool Image: Courtesy of ÆTHER/MASS

These objects by ÆTHER/MASS are tangible outcomes of the studio’s experiments and exploration into myriad materials, processes and craftsmanship techniques. ÆTHER/MASS can be adequately viewed as a lab where testing, experimentation and evaluation take place. When asked about the inspiration behind this collection and his practice, furniture designer Davy Grosemans had this to say: “Inspiration follows fascination. As a child, I watched my father make stuff in his garden shed. Today, I realise I am still fascinated by ‘people making stuff’. By seeing how they make it, inspiration comes instantly.”

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