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The World of Handcrafted Chairs

What’s happening in the world of artisanal wooden furniture – specifically with occasional chairs, bar stools and hospitality chairs? We chat to Shirley Mast, director of Woodbender.

1. Do you think the appetite for locally manufactured, handcrafted chairs is growing in SA?

South Africans are becoming increasingly aware of craftsmanship and with that comes a desire to know the story behind each and every product. This ties into supporting local businesses, because you have the opportunity to relate to the stories behind products and in some instances even go and see the product being crafted and made. This provides a depth to the product, which is a lot harder to replicate when buying goods from overseas.

2. How much is the design process for your artisanal chairs influenced by international trends or designers?

We look to international trends and see what can be applied here in our market, especially when it comes to new restaurant installation and client requests. We have to be careful not to follow every international trend, because South Africans still want something unique with local character. We also have to be wary of creating something that is not complemented by our woodbending process, and may not offer the same strength and durability that the rest of our range does. The great thing about the way we bend wood is that we’re often able to put a twist on a trend and make it our own – because not many other companies use the same manufacturing process. (Pictured below is the Riga and Horten Dinette)

Riga horton

4. Tell us about some of your most recent installations that includes artisanal chairs?

We’re currently working on one of our biggest occasional tub chair orders to date, which is for one of the largest hotel groups in the country. This job is currently in manufacturing but has been a wonderful project to be selected for. The wooden chair chosen by the designer is the Plettenberg tub, and it’s been upholstered in a mix of leather and textured fabric.

5. Which is your favourite occasional wooden chair and why?

The Chelsea Showwood has always been my favourite occasional chair from Woodbender. I love the quirkiness of it and how it’s a complete departure from anything else in our range. It is a statement piece that is not only beautiful to look at, but comfortable to sit in too, as the bent backrest hugs your back extremely comfortably.

6. Any particular trends you’ve noticed in hospitality chairs lately?

Lowback dining chairs or even no-back dining chairs seem to be a huge trend in the international dining scene. There is also a huge rise in very old traditional bentwood chairs. These are typically the wooden café chair and the carver bentwood dining chairs, where the backrest and arms are shaped out of a 3D curled piece of bentwood. Elegant fully upholstered dining chairs with unusual arm shapes are also popular these days. (Featured below the Floro with the lowback and sloped off arms that wrap around you).