Looking back

A story of wire I: Bend and bow

October 21, 2016

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So as we’ve learned the upholstery was somewhat a challenge to Christian and Jasper, However, when it came to the wire part of the chair, the story was different. The wire was the fundament of the chair.

When the whole thing was still a school project they were working with a shell, and when they decided to take it to new levels, they tried to figure out how to rethink and redo it.

If you imagine that the entire chair is a shell, you have to picture that you cut through the chair from every possible angle. That will get you a bunch of curved cross sections. Each cross section forms a wire that all together create the shape of the chair.

The guys tried a lot of different versions. Some turned out more like a mesh, but finally they found the right combination of what was possible and what was aesthetic. This was what brought it to a higher level.

“It is very fundamental for our approach to design: What can you actually do with the material and what do you want to do. The handcraft and the design are united in one,” Christian says.

Started bending wire over the knee
After creating the wires – or cross sections, Christian started drawing up the construction on a computer, ensuring that both ergonomics and aesthetics were taken into account. After that it was time to build the first prototype.

“I started bending the wires. Actually I started bending them across my knee. Today it’s all made on a CNC bending machine through a computer, but back then I had created models in wood and used these to bend the wires. I spent hours in the hen house. When you are starting up like that, time is all you got. Time doesn’t cost you anything.”

There were several times when the guys considered starting all over with new moodboards instead of trying to develop their school project further.

“Because a chair really is one of the hardest things to do. But it’s also the most exciting coolest. It’s what all the great designers are known for.”

Looking back

Creating upholstery II: Meeting Kurt the Saddler

September 14, 2016

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Well, so to recap, Jasper and Christian had gone to all the best of the best upholsterers in Denmark. No one could do what the guys wanted, and no one thought it to be possible.

Finally a respected and renowned upholsterer told them that nobody in Denmark could do the work they wanted. Perhaps they would be able to find somebody in Italy. But not in Denmark.

”This was just a bucket of cold water right in our faces. We hadn’t exactly a trip to Italy planned and also: who would want to work with a couple of broke kids from Denmark with an idea for a chair?

So this is when we said: Let’s do it ourselves.”

They guys starting researching the field of saddle making, and they started looking up saddlers. After some time they found a man in Hellerup, north of Copenhagen, who was educated from the last class of saddlers. 35 year ago.

They drove up to him. Kurt was his name. He didn’t want to sew anything, but he lent the guys his sewing machine. They experimented and after some time they had actually made a cushion.

”This was the first thing we could actually relate to,” Jasper tells me.

Christian and Jasper were optimistic now. They went to talk to a man who made bags in leather in Elsinore, and they went to the local leather shop to buy full-grain leather.

The first actual upholstery was sewn by hand. It took a couple of days with an awl and hand stitches.

“I hadn’t much skin left on my thumbs after that little adventure,” Jasper tells me.

”It took forever, but it gave a sense of the stiffness and the details we wanted.”

The guys started studying YouTube to figure out how to do it right. Well, mostly Jasper, who ended up being the leather/upholstery-guy in the duo with Christian being the frame-guy.

“I watched an awful lot of video clips with Americans making Stetsons and stuff like that.”

Jasper laughs. The journey of creating Overgaard & Dyrman sure took the guys to new and unknown places.

In a small town in Jutland they found a guy who sold sewing machines. They brought their upholstery to show him the processes, and he found a machine for them.

”It cost 30.000 Danish Kroner or about $5000. We didn’t have that kind of money, so we lent it from my dad. Actually I think he still owns it,” Jasper says with a smile.

This was it. The guys had made the jump into entrepreneurship.

Bonus: In November 2014 Christian and Jasper exhibited in Museumsbygningen in Copenhagen, and Kurt, the saddler, came to visit them Now they were there as equals. And equally impressed with each others work.

Said and done

SMS: Experimenting with glue

September 8, 2016

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SMS from December 2nd 2014

One of the disadvantages when you always want to to find out and do everything yourself:

When there is no non-poisonous glue that fits our needs, we have to start experimenting at making one that does.

Have a good one, Jasper & Chris.

Looking back

Creating upholstery I: It’s just not possible

August 29, 2016

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So the decision had been made. Christian and Jasper decided to make a run for it.

Now they needed to find the right subcontractors. They started seeking out upholsterers. Who is the best? Who can do what?

Jasper and Christian engaged with a small company who was very keen on the project. They made some of it and returned it to the guys. But Jasper and Christian weren’t happy.

”The thing was that we already knew what we wanted. Or sort of at least. But we didn’t know how to articulate it. We didn’t know how to explain our ideas. So the output never looked like what was in our heads.”

The guys started looking into the art of saddle making for their upholstery. Within this tradition you use full-grain leather for stiffness and soft leather for comfort.
Denmark has a long and renowned tradition of creating furniture with a lot of skilled craftsmen and designers during history. But in spite of this, Christian and Jasper found nobody that had experience using the handcraft of saddle making in the creation of furniture. Nobody knew how.

In Denmark we typically make upholstered furniture in two ways. One is where the upholstery is sewn inside out like with a classic cushion. And the most common way is the one known from many of the classics like Arne Jacobsens Egg and Swan chairs and the Papa Bear chair by Hans J. Wegner. This is where a supporting structure or frame is covered with foam and fabric or leather.

”But neither of that worked for us. We wanted to uncover the construction, the metal frame, but also we couldn’t go with the classic cushions. It would become all wobbly and wouldn’t work. So we needed the stiffness of a thick full-grain leather that would become self-supporting as in the case of a horseback saddle.”

Christian and Jasper went to the best upholsterers in the country; the ones that did upholstery for the greatest Danish design brands.

But they all only knew the inside-out and wrapping techniques. Their suggestion to a solution to the upholstery challenge was to use velcro when making the attachments to the wire frame.

“When they said that we were pretty sure that they weren’t the right ones for us. Even though they were the best – and only ones – out there.”

Thoughts

The responsibility that comes

August 23, 2015

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When Christian and Jasper started working together at first, they talked a lot about sustainability and CSR. They read a lot about the cradle-to-cradle-philosophy. It’s a serious approach to sustainability.

”Earlier on the question of sustainability has been answered by a few mantras and company buzzwords like ’remember to reuse’ and ’remember to economize’. But there hasn’t been anything, which the industry could actually implement effectively. This philosophy could.”

The main idea of the cradle-to-cradle-philosophy is that all products can be taken a part, so that the materials can be sorted and reused or properly destroyed. Also it is important to trace your materials.

”Our chair can be taken a part. You can put the steel in a pile with more steel, and you can burn the upholstery. You wouldn’t be able to do that with a chair wrapped in foam and moulded.”

Tracing materials is hard, but fortunately it gets easier every day. Christian and Jasper are not fanatics, but they try their best. They want to feel okay about their material and they want to have a sense of what is in their delivery and where it originates. They make sure that the foam doesn’t contain dangerous chemicals like some do, and they know that the steel comes from a mine in Sweden.

”Obviously this approach needs to develop throughout generations. It is a community and fellowship we need to build. Every supplier, every manufacturer and every design needs to take responsibility for their part.”

Sustainability is about responsibility, and in the same way the guys want to be responsible about environment and resources, they also want to be responsible as employers, when that day comes.

”In the future we want to be good employers and have a cool company. It’s closely related to the idea of good handcraft: It’s way more fun to have people working for you, who are also fond the art of handcraft and at the same think the company an awesome place to be. And that way you’ll get good products and everybody wins.”

Thoughts

Production – a question of proximity and nerdiness

June 29, 2015

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At first the guys thought about handling the production in the traditional way where the designer collaborates with a manufacturer.

”But when you are producing things with the quality and the level of details that we do, good communication and a trust between designer and manufacturer is vital. We believe, also based on experience we’ve had with China and India, that proximity is necessary to make quality.”

So Christian and Jasper produce their own furniture.

Of course some of the components are made by subsuppliers. But the point is that the guys don’t force their design to fit some existing production facilities. It’s a question of what they need to create their design, rather than what is available to create design from. This is also why they had to invent a range of tools and moulds by themselves. In order to make the components they needed, they had to create tools that could make those components.

“A designer’s freedom is quickly limited by the height, width and thickness of the foam, the limitations of bending wire parts and other things based on how things are now at this very moment. But that’s is not what we want.”

Christian and Jasper want to be in it. In the design and in the process. They want to follow and understand the process instead of being left with an idea that you have to just hope that a craftsman can turn into reality. Pretty much like in the case of the upholstery back at the very beginning.

Besides all this, at the end of the day this is also what gives the guys a kick. Where they turn into craft-geeks.

“We just flat out love the crafts part. Sitting around with materials, shaping and experimenting and then all of sudden you have created something. Not everyone gets to experience that. Everyone loves to see things being brought to life, but not everyone has the pleasure of actually doing it yourself.”

Looking back

The decision to create a company

June 22, 2015

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By now (in the timeline) one and a half or two years have gone by, since Christian and Jasper graduated. They are in each their part of the country and have good and well-paid jobs.

But they’re not satisfied. They’re not fulfilled.

And a decision is made: They create their own company.

In November 2012 they cut down their regular jobs to half time jobs.

”It’s definitely a luxury to be able to do that. But I guess out companies knew that the alternative was that we were going to leave.”

After three months the urge to create something on their own is getting more and more explicit. Work starts to become something that needs to get done.

”It just doesn’t work to feel that way. Not for us and not for our workplaces,” says Jasper.

It wasn’t about the job or the workplace, however. Jasper tells me, he doesn’t think he would be able to find a better place to work in terms of creativity and the approach to design.

“But the feeling of something missing in my life couldn’t be solved by finding another job. The job was almost perfect. But it didn’t make the longing of creating something by myself go away. I missed following the product from the first sketch to the final product – without ever having to compromise.”

For Christian it was bit different. He wasn’t really happy at his job. His tasks weren’t within his area of interest. But that wasn’t what bothered him the most.

“I had a lot of responsibility, but no authority. That doesn’t work for me. For me it’s not about having a company or not, it’s about being able to control and structure your day and tasks. Creating our own company was a possibility for me to get responsibility and authority in order to make things happen.”

At February 2013 the guys quit their jobs.

Said and done

The left-over butter

May 30, 2015

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One night, when the boys were really in despair (not that there has only been one of these situations) and pulling their hair, discussing the limit of prizes of a piece of furniture like their own, Christian said:

”What the hell do I know. I come from a family where we are used to scraping the left-over butter back into the box.”

 

Looking back

Asian attempts and Danish determination

May 25, 2015

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Well, the idea for the Wire Collection, or actually just for the Wire Dining Chair, appeared, while the two boys were studying. We know that by now.

When they graduated, they started each their job. Jasper as a Senior Product Designer at a strategic design consultancy and Christian as Industrial Designer and Project Manager at a textile- and furniture company. While working here, Christian and Jasper were contacted by a design brand, who wanted to bring them and the chair project into their business. So the chair project continued on the side, and the guys were still working at their regular jobs.

They made, what they call ”idiot-proof production material”, which was sent to India.

”But what came back wasn’t even near what we wanted it to be,” says Jasper and adds:

“We learned something about how complex the development from drawings to the end product is. But apart from that it really was a lousy product and a lousy communication.”

Later on some other company was interested in Christian and Jasper and the chair. They tried the same ting – this time with China. And the same result: A completely hopeless prototype was returned.

”They just didn’t understand the whole idea of it. And I think deep inside we knew that they wouldn’t succeed, but we were running out of options and just really wanted something good to happen,” Jasper remembers. The craft itself was miserable. The communication was ridiculous.

”We’ve spent so much time making this material, so that it would be easy for them to produce. But they didn’t time reading it. They didn’t understand the importance of quality.”

Christian and Jasper still believed in the product. And all the interested companies (there were more than these two) confirmed their belief. Apart from the belief in the product itself, something else grew: the urge to control the whole thing themselves.

The guys never liked the concept of drawing and developing products and sending them off and then being out of the process.

”We wanted to get sore muscles and blisters on our hands rather than ending up with RSI from using a computer mouse,” Jasper says.