BKLYN DESIGNS ‘09 Exclusive Video Preview: Eric Weil of Oso Industries

When a carpenter friend of mine once mentioned that he was dabbling with creating furniture from concrete (this was back in '00, mind you), my reaction was a heady mix of hilarity and incredulity—the mental picture wavering among images of The Flintstones and the vintage caveman pic Quest For Fire. But as we've seen several times during the past year (check out Concrete Things, the Carbon Offset Chair, and Seeyou), designers are crafting gorgeous sculptural pieces—in an impressing array of high-polished tints—from this once-pedestrian material.

Burn Series Lamp. Designed by Eric Weil of Oso Industries.

But perhaps only Eric Weil of Oso Industries has been Hell bent on surmounting the overwhelming perception of the medium as, well, really really heavy. Weil's Rollerboy—a chair, come ottoman, come side table—does much to defeat the prevailing notion that concrete's sheer mass renders it impractical. By employing the material as a veneer (or a "lightweight form and an application of trowel polished concrete") rather than as a solid, structural mass, the designer achieved an exponential increase in concrete's functionality. And the Rollerboy, which "looks like a core of solid stone but is actually quite light and rolls around on recessed wheels, giving the illusion of floating" spawned a constellation of versatile furnishings that join concrete with lighter weight materials. The LP Roller (bamboo and concrete on lockable wheels) and Coffee (hollow cast concrete with embedded aluminum on lacquered wood) are terrific examples of Weil's trademark aesthetic: highly polished concrete in one of eight intriguing colors, strikingly contrasted with the earthy tones of wood.

Not one to sit on his laurels, Weil continues his artistic aim of "pushing the combination of mobility, multifunctionality, and creative use of materials" with the Burn Series, a collection that includes a side table, a console table, a media cart and a table lamp. Weil's new collection—like much innovative art—was inspired by calamity and its subsequent detritus: "In March of 2008, a large fire burned the roof and top floor of the 100-year old Brooklyn building that is home to Oso Industries. Although no one was hurt, some pets died, and a lot of property was lost ... during the roof’s reconstruction, workers cut out and carted through our shop these huge charred beams with a thick, unique texture. We decided to take this remainder of a destructive event and turn it into something constructive." Intrigued by the textural and tactile qualities of the burned wood, Weil employed a rubber cast mold to capture the look and reinvent it as The Burn Series.

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Burn Series Table. Designed by Eric Weil of Oso Industries.

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Burn Series Table. Designed by Eric Weil of Oso Industries.

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Burn Media. Designed by Eric Weil of Oso Industries.

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Burn Sides. Designed by Eric Weil of Oso Industries.

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Burn Shelves. Designed by Eric Weil of Oso Industries.

The new collection is a bold move for Weil, not least because its craggy texture stands in stark contrast to the uber-smooth surfaces of Rollerboy, et al. Yet the high sheen look is not completely absent: all the Burn Series pieces feature at least one side that's a completely smooth expanse. Even so, the bubbling texture--especially when coupled with heavy industrial materials like stainless steel rebar--induces a certain shock response. The effect of these pieces is unsettling and appealing at once, evoking, as they do, the often problematic link between tragedy and art. But love it or hate it, there's no denying that the Burn Series is unprecedented. Hats off to Weil for making art from those unsettling remnants, and for turning trash into treasure.

See Oso Industries' Burn Series at BKLYN DESIGNS, May 8-10, 2009.

Posted April 28, 2009 by Joseph Starr

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