Cross-border collaboration creates macabre Skull Chair

skull chair nz massey universityTaking inspiration from the Victorian parlour game Exquisite Corpse, Nick Graham’s Skull Chair is a truly global effort. A New Zealander designed its legs, a Norwegian designed its seat, and an Israeli added a big skull on top.

(In Exquisite Corpse, players write a phrase on a sheet of paper, fold the paper to conceal most of it, and pass it on to the next player for their contribution to a short story.)

Graham, a Massey University Master of Design student, asked international designers to create a digital file of a specified part of the chair while only being able to see a 20 millimetre section of the part below. He then produced the complete chair in Massey’s digital fabrication facility, Fab Lab Wellington.

His research focused on the changing role of a designer in the era of digital fabrication by experimenting with Open Design – where designers share their concepts, techniques and computer files with users who also shape the final product.

“I heard talk about how we are moving into a sharing world. Like it or not, people are going to share what you design. That frightened me a bit at first. As a designer you think you can patent your ideas, you think of yourself as designing finished items, but digital fabrication changes that.”

But he doesn't think we're anywhere near the stage where we'll all be printing whatever we need at home.

"At the moment, most people using digital fabrication are confident with technology, can figure out software problems, and so on. And there will always be people who just want to buy an off-the-shelf product.

The finished skull chair is on display as part of the College of Creative Arts Master of Design and Master of Fine Arts exhibition in Wellington.