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The Secret Garden design project at Salone del Mobile 2016Friday 8 April 2016
Designer Ini Archibong presents a design project In The Secret Garden for the new design label Amen&Amen. The new furniture and lighting collection is inspired by literature and fantasy. Shown for the first time at this year’s Salone del Mobile, the opulent collection comprises a lighting sculpture, settee, side table and coffee table and is brought to life in materials including brass, marble, hand blown glass and traditional West African prints.
The designer, who set up his practice Design by INI in 2010, has been a resident of the US, Singapore and Switzerland and was born to Nigerian parents. Archibong has drawn on design and craft traditions from each of these nations in this fantastical collection.
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Storytelling is key to Archibong’s work and he references many tomes with In The Secret Garden, including Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Bible, and Greco-Roman mythology. Fantasy books represent an escape from reality or the known, into a place of mystery and adventure; Archibong recognises the power of good design to also offer such escapism and wonder.
“The many hours of my youth spent escaping beyond the looking glass, a witness to heroic deeds and fantastical landscapes, have shaped who I am,” says Archibong. “A common theme with fantasy stories is the escape to the world beyond: a place where the nature that we are so accustomed to surrounding us operates with different rules. Referencing some of my favourite childhood fantasy books, the pieces in this collection are an attempt to bring an element of that vivid, larger-than-reality dream world to a living environment.”
The Jadis lighting sculpture is the crowning glory of the new collection, taking its name from the snow queen Jadis of Charn who doomed Narnia to eternal winter in C.S. Lewis’ tale. Consisting of crystalline flower buds hand-blown by famed Swiss glassblower Matteo Gonet, fantasy brought to life by Archibong. Jadis of Charn was 7 feet tall, and that sense of scale and impression is evident in this striking, landmark piece. The colorful glass buds “dripping” from their frosty marble base also represent the hope that sprung when her reign ended.
The curved shape and ‘oyster shell’ construction of the Cheshire settee was inspired by the wide grin of the Cheshire cat in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In the book, the cat disappears only to leave a grin and pair of eyes, referenced in this two-seater design. The outer shell is upholstered in a Vlisco Superwax batik print traditional to Western Africa and offered in a variety of options. The seat and back feature Alcantara ultra suede for comfort. Polished or brushed brass supports offer a sense of luxury.
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The Orion side table and Galilee coffee table, both imaginatively made of hand carved Carrara marble sitting atop hand-blown glass legs, reference stories of characters walking on water in both Greco-Roman mythology and the Bible. All elements of these two pieces are handmade by Swiss craftsmen, including the glass legs by hand blower Matteo Gonet and marble tops by Vincent DuBois. Archibong has combined their rich skills with a wonderful aesthetic: the glass refraction combined with colour transitions gives the appearance of liquid frozen in time and shape. The perfectly balanced marble on top creates a sense of tension and opulence – like walking on water.
In The Secret Garden will be presented for the first at time at Salone Satellite (Stand C8), the event devoted to the world’s most exciting young designers during Salone del Mobile in Milan 2016.
Founded by Terry Crews, Amen&Amen is about the vigorous fight to reveal the grandeur, magnificence and splendor of craftsmanship. Avoiding the temptations of fear, concession and competition through the free exercise of courage and creativity. Thankful, yet dissatisfied with things as they are, we allow imagination to show us how to manage that which can not be created or destroyed, only fashioned and amended into handiwork the world has never seen.
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Photos by Andreas Zimmermann