The work of Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola seems to appear in the most unlikely places. Most recently, she figuratively traveled to an earlier geologic era in order to explore the intricacies of micro-organisms preserved under a gleaming white expanse of marble in Microsterias. Just before that, she showed her light and lively and highly functional duo--Net Box and Scriba--in Milan. In the last half of this month, she was spotted poking around NYC in the company of Claesson Koivisto Rune (an entity, which, if you didn't know, isn't actually a person but the talented trio that forms the Swedish architecture/design firm). What do Urquiola and CKR have in common? Beyond an unprecedented flair for modern lines and an uncanny knack to intuit the zeitgeist of the moment, a surpassing affection for the work of the master craftsmen at Botswana's Mabeo, "a furniture brand from Botswana, Africa, Mabeo Collaborates with a select list of international designers... using good design, high levels of craftsmanship, carefully selected sustainable raw materials and people development as key building blocks."
Kika Stool. Designed by Patricia Urguiola.
By encouraging and cultivating (and acquiring) design from forces of nature like Urquiola and CKR, Mabeo has earned quite a reputation for synthesizing elite design and local, sustainable production. The judges at ICFF, in particular, have taken notice. They seem to give Mabeo the Editor's award for furniture during even years (2006, 2008, and 2010). Why, just last week, the fair was treated to Mabeo's latest: Urquiola's Kika Stool and CKR's Kalahari Bench. The former features dark wood and a light and lithe profile. An unusual and technically demanding construct of curved laminates formed by turning and sculpting, it comes in four woods (Panga Panga, Masasa, Mukwa, and White Oak) and natural finishes with contrasting edges in red, black, and white. The latter is a handsome elongated affair (also available in Panga Panga, Mukwa, and White Oak) with a distinctive joinery feature: its legs perforate the underside to show the subtly contrasting effect of six perfect discs.
Kalahari Bench. Designed by Claesson Koivisto Rune.
Kalahari Bench. Designed by Claesson Koivisto Rune. Kika Stool. Designed by Patricia Urguiola.
The formula of high-pedigree designers and local, sustainable manufacture with a regional aesthetic seems to have hit all the right notes. If it continues, expect to see more exhibition judges sitting up to take notice, and expect Botswana's Mabeo to end the trend of missing accolades during odd years. We'll look for them to shine in with something new a year from now, and every year thereafter.