By Tanya Silverman
‘Fragments’. By Miro Kral. 2013. Project ‘Flowers for Slovakia’, Lost & Found Collection for Vitra. Photo by Peter Simonik. 2013.
Lost from contemporary living, and barely known to most of the world, are many of the traditional Slovak furniture designs and the history they represent. Flowers for Slovakia, a cultural NGO, and Vitra, a Swiss furniture company selected several design students to find, and re-work, the country’s traditional techniques.
Lost & Found–a new collection of functional furniture modeled after folk designs and made with locally sourced materials and tools–resulted from the collaboration. Winner of the 2014 DMY Berlin International Design Festival’s Exhibitor award, Lost & Found consists of Slovak benches, tables, storage cabinets, stools, chairs, and other pieces.
The long wooden bench, as explained by authors Lars Kemper, Peter Olah, and manager Michala Lipkova, was unavoidable for Lost & Found. In Slovakia, benches were “one of the basic elements of each household,” serving as a seat where families would meet during the day, or a bed where children and occasional guests could sleep at night. Additionally, the same furniture was also set outside for sedentary activities like carving, cleaning vegetables, or weaving baskets.
‘McTatra’. By Martin Zabka. 2013. Project ‘Flowers for Slovakia’, Lost & Found Collection for Vitra. Photo by Peter Simonik. 2013.
Dana Tomeckova’s Everybody at Home bench symbolizes a crowded place where “five generations used to sit, meet, and get older,” while Matej Dubis’ Evolution invites the spectator to view the multi-functional object as a crib or playpen. Though Martin Zabka’s two-chaired McTatra bench is less communal, the way its backrests are carved represent a folk style from the Liptov region around the Tatra Mountains.
‘Gipsy Chair’. By Zuzana Sisovska. 2013. Project ‘Flowers for Slovakia’, Lost & Found Collection for Vitra. Photo by Peter Simonik. 2013.
Zuzana Sisovska constructed her Gipsy Chair working with a traditional, almost forgotten pattern known as “gipsy lace”. Roma women used to weave through “warp and weft” systems to craft corners of blankets, tether garments, or decorate ceremonial folk clothes. In the case for Lost & Found, the lace is woven into the seat of a modern office chair.
Kemper, Olah, and Lipkova saw Lost & Found as a dual educational opportunity for local designers to unravel their country’s roots and for foreign spectators to learn about Slovak heritage. Through design, usable objects provide levels of communication that contemporary art may lack.
‘Twist Me’. By Stefan Noska. 2013. Project ‘Flowers for Slovakia’, Lost & Found Collection for Vitra. Photo by Peter Simonik. 2013
“People use furniture everyday, they understand its functions, therefore they can read the message very quickly and they can recognize the added value of the exhibited objects,” write the authors and manager. “In our case–the added value is the story of Slovakia.”