In March, Romanian Design Week invited us to propose a representative object for this year’s edition of the festival. They suggested to think of a new chair, starting from the traditional three legged shepherd stool. The project was part of a more extensive program called ReDesign Crafts, aiming to emphasize the underrated potential of tradition and crafts through contemporary design.
About the traditional Romanian Shepherd stool
The shepherd stool is an iconic object, renowned in many rural areas of Romania, especially in Muntenia.( a big region of Romania, situated to the south of the Carpathian Mountains). In some villages from this area, there still exist craftsmen who make a living out of wood crafting. The process of making a shepherd stool takes around 12 days. First, the willow wood is precut into rectangular shapes and put to dry naturally in the shadow of the houses. Then, the seat and the legs of the stool are carved, revealing the visible texture obtained during the process of carving.
Our idea and contextual intervention
In the past, the shepherd stool was often used around the table or in open, community oriented environments. Now, when we are living an accelerated urbanization phenomena, socializing usually means restaurants, clubs or pubs, where the bar stool is ever-present. One of the most important objectives in our design process was not to alter the image of the traditional rural stool, but to adapt it and bring it in the contemporary context of the urban socializing needs.
For this stool, which was designated to become the iconic image of the fifth edition of Romanian Design Week and express the idea of craftsmanship, we thought that our intervention as designers should be as minimal as possible, so that the final object will focus on the craftsmanship of carving and the tactile experience which is obtained through that. Having this in mind, we started working alongside experienced craftsmen, who have been passing on knowledge in their families for generations. We used the same materials, followed the aesthetics of the original object, and tried to highlight the craft and the human touch.
Still, recreating the shepherd chair as a modern bar stool meant making a significant functional change. For us, making the chair more contemporary meant developing an eco-friendly product and finding a solution to make the barstool flat pack, to reduce as much as possible the costs for transportation and the carbon footprint.
We focused on making the chair easy to dismantle by adding connectors that allow the legs to be easily screwed into the seat. The connectors are hidden in the material, for a functional, as well as an aesthetic purpose. The legs are secured together by a metal triangle that works as a footrest and gives a subtle aesthetic modern touch.
After presenting the prototype at Romanian Design Week, where it was received with a very good feedback, we decided to take the development process further together with Ubikubi, by adapting the stool to modern production techniques. For the final version of the stool, the three legs and the seat are pre-cut, and then shaped on a wood lathe. The wood used for this commercial version is varnished ash wood. We chose this wood because of its mechanical endurance.
Photo and Video Credits: Roald Aron, The Institute, Romanian Design Week and Ubikubi Team