Toasting winners in our 2016 Champagne Chair Contest.

LOOKING FOR THE 2018 CHAMPAGNE CHAIR CONTEST? This post contains details from the 2016 contest. The 2018 contest begins December 18, 2017, although nothing says you can’t begin working on your entry now. For more details about the 2018 contest, visit the official web page.

They “glued with fierceness,” hurt their hands straightening wire and agonized over prototypes.

And now that the judging is complete, the efforts of the four winners in the 2016 Champagne Chair Contest can be celebrated.

So pop a cork and raise a glass to Irisa Xiong, Leah Amick and Yukie Snowcha for winning first, second and third place in the Best Original Design category, and to James Martell for Best Likeness, a new category this year.

They were among more than 500 designers who submitted entries in this year, the most ever in the 12 years the contest has been held. To enter, they had to make a chair using only the cork, wire and foil from no more than two bottles of Champagne. Glue is the only other allowed material.

The judges for this year’s contest were Juan Garcia Mosqueda, founder of design boutique Chamber; Bec Brittain, a lighting and product designer; and Patrick Janelle, a brand consultant and co-founder of Spring Street Social Society. They selected the winners from groups of finalists in each category. Winners receive a range of prizes.

Enjoy the chairs below, and then chill a couple of bottles of bubbly and get out your tools. The call for entries in the 13th annual Champagne Chair Contest will come in late December.

Best Original Design

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First place, Irisa Xiong
“My process to make the chair was not so sexy,” says Irisa Xiong, a first-timer in the Champagne Chair Contest and Brooklyn resident. “I used spare lunchtimes to sketch some ideas. Suddenly it’s the night the entry is due. I get home from work, and, even though it’s Friday, I go sit right in bed. I usually use Fridays to pre-game my sleep gig. But my boyfriend begins this daunting critique about doing something productive, something about a cork chair or whatever, guilting me through it, how it’s due at midnight … Anyway, we get started and before you know it, we are in the flow, kicking back, sanding, focusing, joking, gluing with fierceness – and that’s it! Chair done.” She admits to committing a fatal mistake during construction “and cursed my way to the liquor store to get a replacement champagne guy.” Xiong, a product designer by day, says her biggest challenge was “finding the gumption to go to Home Depot and get sandpaper.”

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Second place, Leah K.S. Amick
Leah Amick began designing her chair with pen and paper. “After a few rounds of sketching,” she says, “I landed on a cantilever design where the cork seat would be held up by strips of foil. I then made a quick ‘prototype’ with some extra wire from the cage and part of the cork. I used this to figure out proportions and construction. The final chair was made using a box cutter, a couple different pairs of pliers, sandpaper for the cork, and super glue.” Amick, a furniture designer from Providence, Rhode Island, had been toying with woven patterns and decided to apply them to her entry. “I wanted to create a chair in which the weaving would not only be decorative but integral to the function and structure.” Amick is a champagne lover – “My house always has a a bottle ready” – and is a big fan of late Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. This was her first time entering the contest.

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Third place, Yukie Snowcha
Yukie Snowcha, a first-time participant in the contest, says her inspiration came from the materials themselves. “I took apart the champagne cork and visualized the design.” Snowcha, a web and graphic designer from Sante Fe, New Mexico, used an Exacto knife, plier, file, nail file and awl to complete her chair and says the wire was her biggest challenge. “I didn’t have a good plier so hurt my hand when I made it straight.” Snowcha has long dreamed of owning an Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman in palisander and all-grain, white leather.

Best Likeness

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Winner, James Martell
James Martell, an industrial designer from Phoenix, has clearly set a new standard for Champagne chair manufacturing in using injection molding techniques. He started by printing a 3D model of the chair, downloaded from the Herman Miller website, then used the model to make a mold and finally filed down Champagne corks into dust. “I mixed the cork and resin and used a syringe to inject the mixture into the mold,“ he says, “then cleaned and sanded the part when it was removed from the mold. The legs were made from the bottle foil and the cork cage. I rolled foil around a wire piece from the cage to make legs, and repeated to make 4 legs. After cutting wire to make the wire leg base, and a jig for arranging the legs, I glued the legs in place, and glued on strips of sheetmetal from the bottle cage to make the completed chair base. Next was the task of aligning the base and seat pan, and gluing the two together to complete the chair.” Martell, a lover of Champagne, especially brut, is an admirer of Eero Saarinen. As for a chair to actually sit in, he would choose an Eames Lounge Chair.

  • YXant

    Congrats to Irisa Xiong! Beautiful champagne chair original design, yet minimalist and simple.

    Although James Martell’s Eames Shell chair is a nice outcome at great
    effort, one may have concerns and/or inquiries regarding judges choice
    for this chair as winner of Best Likeness category. It was said that
    James “has clearly set a new standard for champagne chair
    manufacturing… filed down champagne corks into dust… (then mixing)
    cork and resin”. Does this process truly complies with DWR Champagne
    contest rules? (http://www.dwr.com/display.do?ruleID=101077). Where is
    the “champagne cork”? Is “resin” glue? In some sense, this ‘new
    standard’ may open a can-of-worms, since anyone can shred about anything
    to dust and “resin” into anything at the expense of champagne chair
    contest to miss its original purpose, which is to challenge participants
    to shape and bend champagne corks into a piece that still resemble its
    original champagne characteristics (without breaking the cork in the
    process).

    A good example of this, along with true thinking and innovation, is
    Croissant Chair by Aaron Chan, where his “croissant” technique shaped
    the chair into a new, and truly original, champagne chair design. As in
    Irisa Xiong case… yet minimalist and simple.