Home Decorating Shape Shifter: Simon Hasan

Shape Shifter: Simon Hasan

British artist Simon Hasan takes leather out of the luxury and into the practical world.

London designer Simon Hasan has made a career out of subverting expectations. Last year, he used the medieval technique of cuir bouilli—in which leather is boiled into hard, brittle forms suitable for armor—to mold 400 bowls, cups, and vases around archetypes of mass production like cola bottles or plastic thrift-store bowls. In an installation called Industrial Makeshift, the items were sold via vending machine, as a commentary on the role of the handmade within the modern production system.

Hasan discovered the process during his research days at the Royal College of Art in London. “I was fascinated by the brutality of boiling leather, and the resulting structural transformation,” he says. Lucky for us, he now applies his technique not just to art installations, but to creating original, no-Coke-bottle-required decorative items for sale at galleries in both the U.K. and the States.

To make one of his signature vases, Hasan wraps the leather around a wooden form, boils it, and allows it to dry; then he lines the vessel with resin to prevent leakage. He finishes the items with precious metal gilding, car paint, or sheet steel or brass. Currently at work on a variety of new projects, including a set of mannequins for Fendi, Hasan will be a designer in residence at the Design Museum in London for an exhibition, running from August 2011 to January 2012, about how the leather technique can be adapted for wider commercial production of retail pieces. That means more for us.

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