We just finished receiving (and opening) the hundreds of boxes of champagne chair entries. The last box I opened was from a group of french designers who have entered every year. Their entry was the most unique I had received and it came with a letter that perfectly summed up the spirit of the contest. Here it is:
Hello from the French group, the ones who have been there since the beginning, and these are our (not) chairs. Sorry in advance for writing such a long letter, but I feel our submission needs a bit of explanation.
We loved the spirit of the original Champagne Chair contest (2003-04): spontaneity, creativity and ingenuity – with a bit of silly thrown in. We organized a last-minute party with lots of delicious food and champagne, and got together with friends and co-workers to make chairs in that spirit. Your winning chairs that year were funky and fun and unlikely and heart-felt…and far from perfect. (Indeed, our then 10-year-old daughter’s very imperfect but soulful "fairy chair" was among the top 20.) It is in the original spirit that we hosted the second and third parties. We don’t take ourselves, or our chairs, too seriously, we don’t come with drawings or mock-ups. We sketch and fiddle and glue and drink and eat and fiddle and drink and – presto! Chairs!
We are, mostly, industrial designers and we love the challenge of working within a unique and crazy set of constraints. It takes us far away from our daily work, while remaining solidly within the domain of industrial design. As much as we love our jobs, it’s hard to beat the pleasure of creating little objects of quirky beauty out of the simplest of tools and materials. And I feel we owe you a thank you for giving us that opportunity.
This year, however, we didn’t make chairs. What we made did not come from a spirit of rebellion but rather a desire to keep our "Champagne Chair Party" tradition alive. We love the party – the champagne and friends, the music and the pliers and the glue (oh! do we love the glue gun!) and the sitting around a big table making crazy sketches and watching them take form. But no one felt like making chairs any more. So we decided to make other stuff. During the course of the party we eventually came up with a French Theme, which resulted in the guillotine and a stately flag as well as a camembert and a baguette, and a model of Bleriot’s Model XI plane. And a bouquet of flowers. In the end, I think we missed having a restrictive subject, but we enjoyed the freedom and fresh approach.
My husband, Pierre-Yves, and I did make two variations of one chair which is in keeping with my paper theme. In 2005 I made a paper maché chair; in 2006 it was a sort of basket weave chair (made by cutting labels into thin strips, wrapping these with strips of foil, coiling it into a mat-like seat and backrest). And this year I decided to use only paper. And glue, of course. Between coats of glue I made a family – les Bouchons! – of fierce little cork people to accompany our small submission this year. And while I love my chair – even if it is a bit less sturdy than I would like (in our "French Rules" chairs we don’t allow ourselves anything other than Elmers and hot glue – I’m sure there must be another glue that would have done a better job) – it is the Bouchon family that I’ll miss the most.
So thank you for giving us – year after year – the chance to be spontaneous and creative and ingenious designers – even if it does mean breaking the rules sometimes.
Aymie Jones (the not French/not designer of the group) & Pierre-Yves Panis and all our designer friends