Limited Edition is about designers who make furniture objects outside of the industrial manufacturing system. Although some employ the same criteria, tools and materials as those required to produce many hundreds or thousands of copies of an object, this book is about individuals working on the peripheries of that system, or the work of those who have chosen to step outside of it completely. Many of the designers in this book think of themselves as explorers, testing the boundaries of materials, process and medium. For them the product almost seems to be an afterthought or added extra. These designers are committed to experimentation; to exploring not just the nature and forms of what they produce but also the systems within which they are commissioned, created, received, displayed, appraised and used. There is also a growing band of gallerists, patrons and curators who are nurturing and encouraging these experiments in the form of one-offs, prototypes or limited editions. They are helping to create new connections between design and the market, between product and object, between industry and ideas: changing attitudes and challenging structures.
“Either consciously or unconsciously, these individuals are asking some big questions: What is design? What does it mean to call oneself a designer? What are the roles of objects and products? If design is to provide so many solutions, where does it have to go to find new answers, to extend beyond itself and the boundaries of its own limitations? Which constraints are now negotiable for design as a discipline, and which are non-negotiable? It is hard to find answers especially when the very issues involved are in such a nascent stage of change that we have not even developed an appropriate vocabulary with which to discuss them. Many of the designers I spoke to whilst writing this book found it hard to put names or categories to what they were doing and how they were working. We need the perspective of time and the luxury of a hindsight that we do not yet have. What we can do, however, is look at patterns and choose examples and individuals who seem to be looking at, evaluating and producing objects in a different way.”
LimitedEdition is a highly selective opinion poll on the state of furniture design at the borders of industry and outside of it. In over 40 interviews with designers, manufacturers, gallerists, auctioneers and critics, I have attempted to sift and arrange some of their thoughts and comments into broad groups and areas that seem to represent some patterns or parallels. It may be old-fashioned to do so, but I have also tried to break down this new world of explorative design objects into categories. It is not a taxonomy by any means –the styles, forms and materials are far too diverse for that – but rather a loose categorisation according to intent on the part of the designer, curator or patron, as well as the ways in which they are collaborating with one another. Categories – however loose they may be – do tend to aid discussion and communication. Nevertheless, this book is by no means comprehensive. I would be the first to admit that this survey is limited in its scope and there are other voices that also deserve to be heard. My aim has been to give a brief insight into the dazzling creative array of work out there and, I hope, to encourage further discourse rather than jump to premature or dogmatic conclusions. If I have succeeded, “LimitedEdition” is not just a book about beautiful things, but hopefully provides food for thought as well.