*rugenius in design , 11:22

Joe Pipal’s Sweatshop at Show RCA 2013- 06.17.13

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Here’s the latest from NOTCOT’s London-based editor and resident zoologist, Justine Aw as she visits the London graduate showcases!

One of my highlights from the Kensington campus of Show RCA 2013 was this fun project from Joe Pipal called Sweatshop that brings manufacturing back into cities and allows users to engage with the making process. His Sweatshop system is an all-in-one factory, but uses a minimum of mechanization, employing a traditional process of steaming hardwoods (in the chamber beneath the table), then bending them into shape using templates and clamp on the work surface. The resulting steam bent wood benefits from all strength of the original wood, unlike plywood and other laminates which rely on glue for their strength. The process also produces minimal waste and the products which can be produced by such a method are surprising, including the sweatshop chair and adorable two bend bike for toddlers. More photos on the next page.

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The workbench houses a steam box underneath and a series of holes on the work surface which hold molds and clips into place.

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Once the hardwood is heated, it is pliable for just a few minutes and must be secured to the wooden molds using clips which slot into the holes in the work surface. The wood then cools and sets into the desired position.

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The pieces are incredibly simple and elegantly designed and I love the modern take on such a traditional technique and Pipal is focused on designing and creating products that make the most of the bent wood technique.

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I loved the two bend bike, a beautiful piece created from just two bends! Like the chair, much of its joinery comes from tough resin bandages, which are surprisingly strong. It’s even adjustable to grow with the child. It’s that sort of clever thoughtfulness that I love about the project and we hope it makes it to a storefront in the city soon!

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