Spring Wood Furniture – An introduction                           Willem Schulpen

The day I am writing these words is Monday evening June 28, 2010. Jus a few hours after Holland has entered the quarterfinal in the World Championship of football. My 81-year young mother told me a few times that Holland would win the Cup. Let us see… Outside it is some 29 centigrade and it was a very hot and busy working day. As nearly every day is. I allways try to live and enjoy a day to its full potential. Normally everyone would go home and relax after 17.00 hours, have a beer and watch tv. I prefer to work a little extra, to write these words; in English which is not perfect. That should not be a problem as long as you – reader – understand the meaning of my words. And learn a little about an idea, a vision in furniture and the numerous steps, hope, deceptions, tryouts you will encounter on your way to the realization of it.
The reason that I would like to write these words to you is that when Carolien Laro left her work today I had a short discussion about her new ‘Piece of Art’ as I call it: Her Spring Furniture. She has been working on it for years now and this coming Thursday we will visit the photographer who will make a number of – let us thrust – creative and nice pictures of it. Then the moment of ‘introduction’ will come and these words may accompany her baby around the whole world. To you?
Before leaving our ‘atelier’ on this very hot Monday I said to Carolien: I doubt whether any of the people who see your creation can understand the backgrounds of it and also comprehend the numerous steps you had to take. To overtake. The deceptions, the try-outs, the tests. The hundreds of solutions you had to find to make your idea work! You told me that you had been working on this project for years now and I could feel a little of all the energy, passion for design, love for wood you had poured into your project in the words you said this very evening.
(Now there is a short break in my writing because I am also operating a CNC milling machine that is now milling the groundplates for the patented sauna pillows whe produce for the inventor. A wonderful little comfort pillow for the sauna. Every 7 to 8 minutes I have to reload the machine and restart the program. There is an enromous lot of noise in the milling and drilling….But I can still concentrate writing this text next to a smaller milling machine which is opposite our ‘Reichenbacher’).
Back to your Spring Wood: As with so many items in modern life we see the item ‘at a glance’ and don’t even have or better take the chance to look at it a bit more intensively. Try to comprehend it. Let me explain this a little further. A bit more philosophic but I learned a lot from this vision I have known for decades now.
When you are not blind you can see
When you can look doesnot mean that you can look (what is in it for example)
When you can see doesnot mean that you can comprehend the item you see
When you can comprehend doesnot mean that you can observe and contemplate on the item you can see
When you can judge the item doesnot mean you can fathom, see through the item you judge
All these are five levels of consciousness and you can learn to dive a level deeper on thorough excercise. Many people ‘swim at the surface level’ while only a few dive deeper into specific items or problems: these are scientists or philosophers. But we all can dive as deeply as our brains, experience and ‘age’ can support. Just try it and learn it; it will bring you a lot of understanding of different matters.
My goal is that you try to understand the Spring furniture Carolien has ‘invented’ on all these five levels.
First of all there was the idea of ‘spring wood’. That is ‘solid wood’ so it should bear a contradiction in itself. When you look at it, it seems like a ‘butcher’s block’. Solid, stiff and severe.
When you sit on it it gives you a remarkable seating experience which is not in line with the experience of the eye. It is a ‘feathering’cushion and it feels comfortable!
Then, after the first look and feel with your buttock you can try to comprehend the idea and the execution of the idea behind spring furniture.

Carolien wanted, just like Chris Ruhe did in another very inventive way – to make wood ‘flexible’ in itself. Chris tried to solve the contradiction between natural wood and ‘processed wood’: in nature all ‘wood’ is moving constantly: every tree, every branch is constantly balancing at the slightest breeze of air. While in our wooden constructions, furniture etc. the emphasis is on ‘stability and rigidity’ nature teaches us that everything is alive and moving’.
Carolien approached this thesis and contradiction in a stool as well and that is what struck me. I absolutely think that it is not ‘on occasion’. I am grateful to God that He brought Carolien to us as well as Chris.
Carolien approached the way to ‘flexibilise’ wood the way you can see when you have a birthday garland. This seems to be very simple but… you have to do many, many tests:
-         How deep should I saw?
-         What is the distance between the saw kerfs?
-         How many sawkerfs should I make per inch?
-         Will it hold (not: will it blend…) a specific weight?
-         Will it last?
-         How will it feel and how will it behave?
Believe me: we cannot count the numerous tests Carolien has made in her mind and in reality…
The ash wood comes first and the selection and quality is a very important one. Consider the lines you see on the surface of each stool: perfectly matched because the wood is re-sawn longitudionally which is a technique to have two nearly equal parts.
After having these parts they are glued together and then you have a rough ‘block’ of solid ash. The sawing is now done on a CNC milling & sawing machine that is not only working very precisely but also o a very high quality level: only ONE piece ‘chipped’ out on the edges…. And you have lost all of your work! Try to imagine the damage risk of failure in this process.
The Paperclip Frame
I wanted a very fragile frame instead of a wooden frame that accompanied the first stool. Thinking of the atomium in Brussels we discussed a paperclip frame. Carolien constructed a prototype out of a real paperclip on a little scale and I immediately loved the way it would look.
So we went to a very experienced construction workshop in our neighbourhood, Mrs. Van der Schee, since 1902 (!) who made us a prototype. It looked beautiful but… it didn’t work since the wooden top was screwed to the thin metal frame. But in their construction tradition they made it very sturdy.
When you sit on the top it should move down and… the distance between the edges will decline because a curve is being created by the weight of the person sitting on the stool. So we had to fix the top not rigid but flexible to the base.
The idea of a rubber ‘silent block’ as is used in engines and car engines came to us so we changed the prototype of the Paperclip base and mounted a thin block of sponge rubber between the paperclip base and the top.
Neither Carolien nor I was satisfied but at least we had the the spring function back…
Then Carolien came with the idea of concealing the flexible mount under or better in the wooden top. It was the real idea… and off she went to the Polson Company – also of Alblasserdam who helped us superbly!
So now the rubber mount of each corner is hidden: her also less is more.
The first serie of five Paperclip Stools came to life and I saw Carolien transpiring heavily while her babies came to life. Now they are standing here apart from two: the prototype will be our permanent example. Number two was sold within 15 minutes after the birth: an art collectors who heard of it instantly bought it!
With her original design Carolien already won two prizes:
-         The ‘Woonbeurs Prize’
-         The Wood Challenge Prize’
The Paperclip immediately advanced to one of my favorites and I really enjoyed to explain a little of the backgrounds that kept Carolien busy for years. And now it will be a joy to my eye everyday I see it.
Restless Legs
Carolien took another step further when she wanted to incorporate the legs into te seat. But: since de seat bends the legs had to be flexible yest stable. This flexibililty she accomplished by inersting small wheels into the legs. Not in the usual way but ‘cross-coupled’ so that the legs can move in and out when you sit on the stool.
The name ‘restless legs’ was another small step since with every move of the body the legs move too....
The Bridge
A 2, 3 and 4-seater bench is created with a steel frame. And of course the inside-mounted rubber ‘silent blocks’ are at the corner of every seat. The bridge can be powdercoated in any RAL colour.
For waiting rooms, for chapels, churches and all ‘eclectic’ areas the bridge is a very suitable piece of furniture that offers both seating comfort as well as ‘a pleasure to look at’.
Willem Schulpen
Alblasserdam, June 28, 2010
For pictures and further information please visit: www.carolienlaro.nl
Spring Wood op de MATERIA Beurs.
E: willem@ritmeester-bv.nl
T: +31 (0)6 22 33 75 17

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