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Danish Design with a Kick

Thomas Pedersen is a founder member and current owner of ‘Spark Design Studio’, based in Aarhus, Denmark, (which will be 2017’s European City of Culture). When you discover that ‘Spark’ means ‘Kick Ass’ in Danish, you begin to understand Pedersen’s approach to the design process, and to appreciate why he is so often cited as one of a new generation of designers creating shockwaves among the Danish furniture design establishment.

Pedersen showed early signs of doing things differently to his peers, right from his time at Aarhus School of Architecture, where, in 2002, he was about to complete his graduation project. He discovered an obstacle: the school had an excellent wood-workshop, in the great Scandinavian tradition of using natural materials, but no facilities at all for working in the metal and glass fibre that Pedersen wanted for his project.

‘Together with another student who also worked in glass fibre, I completed my project out in the school car park. That caused a few problems because the fibre glass made a mess and the dust settled on the teachers’ cars.’ Pedersen explains.

His tenacity was rewarded, however, with his project culminating in the iconic Stingray rocking chair, which was put into commercial production in 2004, and has assured Pedersen his place among the most talked-about Danish design talents.

‘It’s not that I’ve got anything against wood, it’s just that there already is so much wooden furniture about,’ he explains.

‘I wanted to show that it pays to think in new ways and use unconventional materials.’

Pedersen’s Stingray chair was his first Red Dot Award winner - with its multi-positional functionality and striking marine aesthetic. The Danish word for stingray is ‘rokke’, (Pedersen likes a play on words…) which evokes its rocking chair roots, and the shell certainly resembles a giant stingray moving across the seabed. However, perhaps surprisingly for a Danish designer, Pedersen focussed first on the functionality of the design, with its eventual, pared-down form emerging almost as a by-product. This is the creative process that differentiates Spark Studio from more traditional Danish design houses.

‘I wanted to make a swivel chair with lots of different sitting positions. The stingray-like shape came into being as a result of the functionality,’ insists Spark's founder.

Pedersen takes creative inspiration from early morning walks by the harbour in Aarhus, and cites nature as an important source of ideas, but he’s clear on how his own design aesthetic differs from the usual Danish mind-set:

‘My expression of form is not typical of the Danish tradition, but there are lines that hint at minimalism and simplicity,’ he says.

‘My biggest design idol is Charles Eames, who was all about form in reaction to the body. Ergonomics is something that has been missing from the Danish Tradition, where designs have been very square; a very regular minimalism.’

Pedersen explains that simplicity and supporting the body’s natural contours were also the inspiration for Spark Studio’s Deli chair.

‘The idea behind Deli has been to create an attractive stackable chair with an organically formed seat shell, the design and comfort of which invites users to linger a little longer. The organic form of the human body is an important source of inspiration for many of my furniture designs, and Deli is no exception.’

Pedersen’s Spark Studio has a combined design office and workshop at Klostergade 32, in Aarhus, which was created to allow interaction between the designers and clients, where visitors can pick up ‘Kick Ass’ furniture, lamps, unique jewellery and products in fibre cardboard. See www.spark.dk for more information.

Deli chairs image: Kinnarps
Stingray chair image: 3D Furniture