The defining feature of Skin Collection is one of artistic recycling. Pepe Heykoop, has collected skins discarded by the furniture industry, and sewn them into single sheets which he uses to cover a variety of chairs - from standard office types on castors to rocking chairs, and even a dressing table with large circular mirror.
When stitched together, the leather scraps form a unique patchwork that when applied to the chairs, gives them a somewhat surreal appearance. At first glance they could be mistaken for chairs that have been casually wrapped for delivery. A closer look reveals Skin Collection to be an example of subtle wit and gentle sophistication. They are both good to look at and comfortable to sit on. In keeping with his 'waste not what not' philosophy, the chairs themselves are also discards.
Design.nl asked Pepe Heykoop, who is now based in Amsterdam, when he first discovered that the furniture industry produced so much waste?
When I was still at the Design Academy Eindhoven we went to the Dutch design furniture company Montis to have a look at their factory. They showed us a huge machine which could get the most out of the skins, but there was still waste. Quite some waste. All the small pieces with little tears and cuts around the edges…. 25 to 30 percent was unusable. The trip to Montis was made three and a half years ago. It is not only at Montis, the 25 to 30 percent waste happens all over the furniture industry. The waste is sold by the kilo, mainly sent to India or China where they make little wallets out of it.
Skin Collection is in some ways a natural follow on to Heykoop's Leather Lampshades project from last autumn, where the designer teamed up with the Tiny Miracles Foundation in India who provide work for vulnerable mothers living on the streets of Mumbai. Shaped like old industrial lamps, the lampshades are made from lambskin leather that is a byproduct of the food industry and tanned with natural materials and after for the sale of each lampshade, the foundation gives the equivalent of one month's school fees to the mother to send their daughters to English school.
Back to Skin Collection, we asked Heykoop if any waste remained from his pieces?
Yes. I have around 15 percent waste from the initial 25-30 percent waste I start off with.
And where do you get the furniture, the discarded chairs?
In Amsterdam. They are to be found on the streets or in secondhand shops. I'm often to be found at flea markets, too.
Your work seems to have its own organic form and there appears to be an absence of a preconceived plan. Is this the case?
The plan is within the concept. That is, it is already thought out. The outcome always slightly different, never the same, which makes it less boring.
Having made use of furniture waste so effectively, will you investigate other industries, and the possibility of using other materials?
A pretty good idea to investigate after the summer!
Pepe Heykoop's Skin Collection, presented by The RAD Gallery is at The Great Room, 7 Howick Place, SW1P 1BB.
It runs Monday through Saturday, 21 June - 03 July, 10pm - 5pm
Styled Images by Anne Marijne Bax
Images from RAD gallery by Megan McCall
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