Based on the ancient Greek klismos form, this chair incorporates bentwood lamination, a technique using steam to shape wood into graceful curves. Patented in 1808, Gragg’s design and construction process benefitted from his experience using this technique to make Windsor chairs, an example of which is on the right. Inspired by the proportions and lightweight construction of the Windsor chair, Gragg fused the classical past with the industrialized future. The chair is adorned with motifs that date to antiquity, such as the painted peacock feathers along the chair back, the acanthus leaves on the seat rail, and the carved hoof feet. Alicia Valencia, RISD (furniture design) / Brown BA student, 2015: The Elastic chair has an anachronistic energy, with the design and construction appearing far more advanced than the skills and mindset typical of its era. The process by which the chair was made can be read in its form, which makes it a wonderful teaching example. Construction included steaming straight-grained wood, bending the malleable wood in a jig to dry, and merging the pieces together with straight or dovetail joints that vary from each other in size and angle due to the gentle compound curvature of the back. My favorite aspect is the delicate and surprising hoof-like feet. This chair communicates substantial information about its making and offers a great model for designing furniture today. ca. 1808
Providence, Rhode Island
Rhode Island School of Design Museum; chair; bentwood lamination; peacock feathers; acanthus; hooves
Industrial and Product Design
RISD Museum; Valencia, Alicia; Pliessnig, Matthias; and Somerson, Rosanne, "Elastic Armchair" (2014). Channel. 28.