Last year Nils Holger Moormann enthused at great length about Pressed Chair. And so to complete the story, ahead of Milan 2012 we caught up with Harry Thaler in his London studio to learn more about both him and the background to Pressed Chair.
(smow)blog: To begin with maybe a little to your background. If we’re correctly informed you were initially a goldsmith?
Harry Thaler: Yes, I spent 10 years working as goldsmith in my home town of Merano and then I moved briefly to Vienna before doing a jewellery course at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Pforzheim. And it was my time in Pforzheim which was then the motivation to move into design – so stoked the desire to work at larger scales.
(smow)blog: And so how did you then end up at the Royal College of Art in London?
Harry Thaler: After Pforzheim I initially studied design in Bolzano, until I gave that up for lets’ say “an English reason”. There was one course that I had to complete in English, and after I had failed eight times I thought “OK, you’ll have to go to London to learn English!” So I applied to the RCA, was accepted, studied there for two years, and established my studio here in London in 2010.
(smow)blog: Given your background in jewellery. As a designer do you work more with models and “hands-on” construction or are the first design steps on the computer?
Harry Thaler: It depends a lot on the project. I am currently working on a house, and that is naturally a lot of computer based work, but then there are projects such as Pressed Chair which never involved the computer and is the result of pure experimentation.
(smow)blog: Which brings us nicely to the next question! When we look at your earlier work, we can’t see any obvious path to Pressed Chair. Was it a completely new project for you, or is there a connection to your previous work?
Harry Thaler: I would say it is rooted in my earlier work, in that if I hadn’t worked as a goldsmith I would probably never have had the idea. Obviously the scale is completely different but, for example, forming pieces of sheet metal is a typical goldsmith process.
(smow)blog: And can you remember what the initial idea was? Was there a moment of inspiration, or….
Harry Thaler: While there are projects where you wake up and the idea is there, Pressed Chair was more a process. It started with a small fork made from one piece of wood, that was then developed further into a table, chair, stool made from one piece of wood and then came a sort of wooden wafer that was then bent to form a chair…..
(smow)blog:…… and then you thought, OK if it works with wood lets try with metal?
Harry Thaler: No, not exactly. The original plan was to make something out of just one material, which was ultimately metal. And once we had the basic form the next step was to develop it further so that the sheet was as thin as possible. If we were to take a 1cm thick piece of metal it would be much easier, so just bend it and that would be that with no need for the groove. But it is the groove that makes the chair what it is.
(smow)blog: And then the first meeting with Nils Holger Moormann?
Harry Thaler: That was in January 2011 in Cologne. I had won an Interior Innovation Award and Nils approached me at IMM.
(smow)blog: Did he already know the work or did he encounter it for the first time in Cologne?
Harry Thaler: He said that he’d been following it for some time, and I’ll never forget how he approached in Cologne, he came direct to me, no looking left or right. Just straight, focussed, to me!
(smow)blog: And how is it for you as a designer, you develop a chair, win prizes, then a company such as Moormann come and say “Great, we want to produce it. But we’ll have to make changes.” Is that something that makes you nervous, or uneasy?
Harry Thaler: No not at all! The cooperation with Moormann was excellent. They sent me pictures and I could see that it was in essence the same chair. They had made minor changes but the spirit was the same. And I was kept informed as to what was happening, it wasn’t the case that they just took it and did what they wanted without consulting me. They did a lot, but as I was kept informed and so could in effect accompany the process.
(smow)blog: And now, finally, it is on the market. Is the project for you now closed and your just waiting for the cheques to roll in, or is it still something that you think about, something that you still follow closely ?
Harry Thaler: The great thing about design is that maybe I’ll see the chair in a cafe here in London or in someone’s house, so somewhere where it has its own life. And when people take pleasure from the chair and really use it then that is something that makes me happy. But obviously I am also looking to develop the concept further into other objects such as a table or a stool.