Charcolor Furniture, by Louie Rigano and Avantika Agarwal

Our first introduction to Louie Rigano, a New Jersey-born, RISD-educated designer who’s now studying in the Design Products program at RCA, was a piece he’d made for the American Design Club’s Trophy Show, back in 2013. Called Glittering Urn, it was a neo-classical form made slightly punk-rock by virtue of its material: a resin that had been almost entirely suffused with glitter. So it came as no surprise when we received an email last week from the designer — who describes his process as a “search for moments of unexpected accord between the spectacular and the practical” — of a new furniture collection he’d created in collaboration with fellow student Avantika Agarwal, which paired relatively simple wooden forms with an audacious coloring process. To create Charcolor Furniture’s seared rainbow effect, CMYK pigments are literally burned onto the wood. (Check out Rigano and Agarwal’s mesmerizing process video here.)

“Our inspiration for the project came from looking at the divergent ways in which color is treated within different areas of the designed world. CMYK in modern printing, for example, allows for very precise application of color. Some cultures, however, rely on more instinctual methods. In the ancient Indian tradition of Rangoli, the women of the home would every morning draw patterns using pure color powders in the entranceway as a welcome and blessing, taking pride in this daily ritual of ornamentation. Taking inspiration from this intuitive and natural application of color in homes, we started powdering pigments to create patterns on surfaces. Experimentation with solid CMYK toner pigment lead to our discovery of the toner as a wood finish due to its waxy nature. As with Rangoli — a primitive and unpretentious celebration of color — here color finds purpose through application. Color is no longer a cosmetic afterthought; it is the central element. Its significance is literally seared into the design. We thought it would be interesting to pair very clean, strong-silhouetted furniture pieces with this finishing technique which is about spontaneity and applied in a very hands-on way. The forms express the subtle color gradients and natural variation of the charred surfaces with surprising clarity.”

The Charcolor Collection will be on view at the Big Small Show during the London Design Festival, today through the 19th at Hoxton Basement Gallery.
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