gonzalez wohlers

Contributor: Valentina Gonzalez Wohlers

Creative Discipline:  Furniture Design

Location:  London, England


Valentina  Gonzalez Wohlers. I interviewed Valentina at the 2010 ICFF this past month and heard some interesting things about her bright pink and green chairs, The Prickly Pair Chairs. There’s a bit more than meets the eye as we chat about the core of her design thinking. Definitely worth the read, check it out.

OM- Hi Valentina, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you are showing here at ICFF 2010

G-W- My name is Valentina Gonzalez-Wohlers, I am a Mexican designer-maker who is  currently based in London. I moved there five years ago to do my Masters in Contemporary Furniture Design at Central Saint Martins. It’s been 10 years now that I have been doing furniture and I have been doing my own for the last two. The pieces I’m showing here at ICFF are the Prickly Pair Chairs. They are the result of the experiences of a Mexican designer living and experimenting in Europe for the past five years. What we are looking at is two chairs with their roots in Luis XV, French-Rococo. If you notice the chairs have additions growing from their backs, reminiscent of cacti. The idea is quite simple, I observed how the oval tufting on the chair can begin to multiply- similar to a cactus.

[ Prickly Pair Chair, armless]

OM- I really enjoy how the fabric is in places where the body might not ever contact. The same language is carried through all the way up the extremities of the chair, even appearing on the backside of the chair.

G-W-French upholstery is characterized by the buttons. So what I did was looking at the prickles on a cactus that grow randomly on the surface of the plant, I used buttons to begin to symbolize this. For instance typical French upholstery will have like four buttons. I didn’t care, I just began to put them everywhere. The original chair had actual horse-hair attached to each individual button. I think this works conceptually, but if you sit on them unfortunately they do not spring back after many uses.

[ Prickly Pair Chair ]
OM- Yes, like the images on your website.
G-W-Yes, The pieces that I do for galleries in Europe I keep the prickles on the back panels. It is very, very time consuming to add this detail.

OM So if someone wished to have the horsehair detailing, could they potentially get it?

G-W-They are going to have to ask nicely…

OM- [laughs]

G-W-It’s too much work! I mean we are talking about 300 buttons between front and back. I can do about five prickles in 20 or 30 minutes. So the process is very long. However, the Prickly Pair Chairs have had a really good reception in Europe, especially in France being that you know- they’re super flamboyant and I am building upon the Louis XV style. I feel it takes time for the American market to recognize the work of a Latino abroad. You need to be validated through appearing in tons of magazines and publications to then be recognized as being from your own country- which is sad, but hey – that’s the way it goes. As of now we are beginning to get loads of quires from the American market for the Mexican design market. I’ve decided to associate with a Mexican partner and we’ve taken the production of these chairs to Mexico.

[ Prickly Pair Chairs ]

OM- That’s really great to hear- the rest of your work such as the Abstract Low Tables seem to all tie back to an introspective look at your roots.

G-W-A contemporary retake- My work is about narrative- it is about stories and story telling. Perhaps one can call it, functional art or art furniture- I don’t know. If you look at the Prickly Pair Chairs and the Ghost Chairs they appear to have no relation, they are completely different- and then the Erotica piece… I don’t really know how that works, it just does.

[ Erotica Tables, plan view]

OM- Conceptually I see that there is an idea about people really engaging with your work, and not just physically.


OM- Giving them the opportunity to digest your work a certain way upon seeing the pieces and then allowing them to digest it another way upon use.

[ 'Chocolate' Ghost of a Chair ]
G-W-I think we can call it emotional design. People engage with it, like it and want to keep it. It’s not like disposable furniture, you want to keep this relationship that someone else can inherit. You won’t after a few years say, “ah fuck it!” The intention is that my work is made to last. Vintage furniture was made to last 20 years.

OM- A timeless connection.

[ Ghost of a Chair ]

G-W-Yes, It’s not Ikea furniture. Now-a-days people appreciate these stories, they will invest in furniture – buying less but better quality. Today people want to know the story and the designer and what is behind the piece itself.

OM It’s much more human- ICFF inherently is about this idea of how the person interacts with the object. It resonates much more in the better pieces here at ICFF.

G-W-For me it’s important to create something – awake an emotion. You can’t just all of a sudden go… CHAIR! – I mean how many chairs are on the market? If you can make someone smile, wonder or be surprised- that’s awesome.

And I think that this [Prickly Pair Chars] is a good example of that. I get all types of emotions and reactions. People are like, ‘What the fuck is this?’
OM- exactly what you want! You can not please everyone. And at the end of the day it’s about what you want to create.

OM- Thank you for the interview Valentina, best of luck.


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