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October 15, 2009

I'm in the air en route to Minneapolis for the American Craft Council's annual conference, where a number of writers, artists, makers, scholars and others will gather to discuss the future of craft.

Felt chairs by Tanya Aguiniga

In light of this event, I thought I'd write up a designer I've been wanting to feature for several weeks, since Aaron and I visited the SF20 Modernism Show and Sale. Tanya Aguiniga's work was featured at the booth of Los Angeles–based Reform Gallery (which also included countless other gems) and I've been thinking about her work every since. My eye was drawn first to a felted chair, displayed outside the Reform Gallery booth.

Eames Felt Chair by Tanya Aguiniga

The form of the chair was easily recognizable as the standard metal folding chair found in every classroom and church basement and meeting hall you've ever set foot in. But while its charcoal-gray color didn't stray too far from the familiar industrial object, a closer look revealed that the gray surface was beautifully hand-wrought felt, transforming the cold metal into a warm, thick upholstery of sorts. The full collection, which was displayed at Design Miami 2007, includes more colors than a pack of Skittles.

The following year, Aguiniga took the concept further and felted a plywood Eames Chair, spindly legs and all (above left). The hand-felting itself is exquisite to examine closely; it's seamlessly applied straight to the chair with soap and water. At just 31 years old, Aguiniga has executed much of her work in Mexico, southern California and Alaska, and the influence of each place is evident in her various works.

Birch Bench by Tanya Aguiniga

Her birch bench (right) and sled are made with birch bark collected from trees in Fairbanks during a residency there. The Teotitlan chair (below) salutes the weaving traditions of Oaxaca, where she studied natural wool dyeing techniques. As we head into conversations about what defines craft as culture and technology rapidly change, Aguiniga's work displays a beautiful recognition of craft's many and varied roles across geography and time, often connecting numerous points within a single piece. I look forward to reporting on more discoveries from the rich land of craft once I hit the ground in Minneapolis.

Teotitlan Chair by Tanya Aguiniga

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