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Solid Textile Board benches by Max Lamb

Max Lamb brings deep technical knowledge and poetic restraint to material experimentation, always exploiting the natural tendencies of processes and materials in his designs. His series of 12 Solid Textile Board benches demonstrates the possibilities of Really’s Solid Textile Board. He talks to curator Jane Withers about his approach to experimentation.

Jane Withers: How do you go about familiarising yourself with a new material such as Solid Textile Board? What do you do first?

Max Lamb: Lick it! No seriously, there’s a process of getting to know a material and understanding what it’s like to work with and what you can do with it. First there’s what it looks like, then what it feels like – its weight, density and flexibility. Then we start to work with it in the workshop. We make a series of studies – these are really about testing ideas – that then inform the bench designs.

Jane Withers: The studies will be exhibited alongside a series of 12 benches. What was the thinking behind this?

Max Lamb: This project has to work on two levels: it is a personal study, an exploration of Solid Textile Board, but it also demonstrates to other designers and manufacturers what the material can do, what can be done with it, how it compares to similar sheet materials, and what is special about it.

Jane Withers: What is special or distinctive about Solid Textile Board?

Max Lamb: It’s an intriguing material. At first you don’t quite know what it’s made of, but then once you know it’s textiles, it makes sense. There’s a warmth that comes from its textile origins. What’s also interesting is that it is a sheet material that can bend. Because it is a non-woven material made from fabric fibres, all of those fibres cross-laminate; they go in all directions. Solid Textile Board is a completely blended material that offers uniform flexibility in all directions. And whereas wood fibre is flexible but brittle, Solid Textile Board has a softness to it that withstands bending.

Jane Withers: This is a material that’s made from upcycled waste but also made to be ready for a future circular economy. How does that bear on your thinking about the material and how you work with it?

Max Lamb: It’s really important that this is discussed from the start, but it is ambitious and there is a lot still that needs to be in place for the circular economy to actually happen. I’m a pragmatist. I am interested in what can be done with the material now. I am always thinking about longevity, making things that last, things that people want to keep. I’m not interested in flat pack or design for disassembly, or things that are made to get thrown away and recycled. But it has made me think about the fixings and finishes we use, and doing as little as possible to affect the material.

Inspiration. Challenging designers and architects to rethink their use of resources, Really starts a dialogue about the shift in perception, process and logistics needed as we grapple with upcycling waste.