The Floating Chair

Bringing a lot to the table

Chisel Table, by Mark Macek
Chisel Table, by Mark Macek

The Chisel Table is square: four corners, four legs. Only the legs are in the middle of the top, not the corners. With a glance, it breaks down a stereotype about tables you might not have even known you had. More importantly, the visual trickery of Mark Macek's balanced, clean piece doesn't compromise its functionality. So it is throughout "The Floating Chair," an exhibit at Design Within Reach featuring the area's finest industrial designers.

Nung Chair, by Jared Huke
Nung Chair, by Jared Huke

Macek Solid Arts' Chisel Table comes in several varieties, including parallam, a strand lumber and bamboo plywood. Mark "Veneer" Macek has emphasized sustainable fibers like bamboo, as well as the new plywoods that utilize recycling techniques. The International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York featured him as well as two other "Floating Chair" designers: Jennifer Prichard (ICFF editors award, 2005) and Jared Huke. Huke is a Texan who, after living overseas, decided he liked the idea of using the indigenous Asian basket-weaving tradition, sustainable bamboo, and labor markets to make a contemporary American chair. To me, his bamboo Nung Chair from Xeno Objects looks like part sun hat, part papasan chair, and part awesome space pod. It's lightweight, environmentally sound, and just plain groovy.

The 30 designers here bring so much to the table, from the curvy Schoolhouse Rock vibe of Daniel Guerrero's Swivel End Table to the bright colors and fancy piped upholstery of Holly Everett's DJ Chair to the technical virtuosity of Daniel Kagay, Chris Arnold, Raymond Hemza, Red Plum Jam, and Hawkeye Glenn. And Fisterra Studios, which co-curated the show, are consistent performers. Blue Genie Art Industries offer a series of Sushi Ottomans in three delicious flavors. Frisbie Design Concern weighs in with two phatt steel and wood benches: Big chunks lead up to a clean permanence and an iconic style. Look for the contrasting relationship between his benches and the porcelain installation of Jennifer Prichard, who makes hundreds of thin clay cones in muted colors and glues them to the wall so that they look like lichen or a new kind of hive. Her approach is unique, laborious, and soft.

Bill Twitchell, a mad fabricator, specializes in transforming toys and found objects into large mutations of their former character. His version of the shag rug, Flua-Bert Area Rug, is made of teddy bears and anonymous faux furs. I picture Twitchell skinning dozens of Valentine's Day teddy bears, pinning up their tiny pelts. He is one of a kind.

Questions about mass-production techniques are fun to think about while you check out the approaches of these 30 talented designers. Our design scene has grown with the real estate boom and the East Austin Studio Tour, which serves as a percolator for rising design standards, environmentally responsible building practices, and audience visibility. Macek's tables will be seen in the film version of Miami Vice. I recommend seeing them in the comfort of Design Within Reach. This new Second Street business is huge, and it needs to be with all this talent in one room.

"The Floating Chair" runs April 14-29 at Design Within Reach, 421 W. Second. For more information, visit


A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle