Matteo Guarnaccia creates saddles inspired by Kazakh culture

Sicilian designer Matteo Guarnaccia continued the Cross-Cultural Chairs project by inviting 13 designers from around the world to create horse saddles that take cues from the traditional nomadic culture with local artisans.

The previous part of Guarnaccia’s Intercultural Chairs project was completed last year and involved designing chairs based on specific seating habits of the world’s most populated countries.

Matteo Guarnaccia and a group of designers completed the project in Kazakhstan

Guarnaccia collaborated with local designer Zhanna Ee and local curator Vlad Sludskiy for the latest edition of the project. The trio hosted 13 designers in Kazakhstan, where they designed five horse saddles in groups at a workshop held in August.

Local artisans then worked with designers to create the saddles and introduce them to techniques such as wood carving and leather embossing.

Padded saddle with foam seat
Anna Ziegler, Belen Cabello and Timur Aktayev focused on the comfort of a horse for their saddles

According to Guarnaccia, the project uses saddles to celebrate the traditional nomadic lifestyle that has historically characterized Kazakhstan before changes during the Soviet era created a more settled and settled culture.

“The Soviet Union meant ‘progress’ and the nomadic lifestyle was no longer a profitable option, so all of Central Asia had to be settled with brand new cities, monuments, covered markets and highways.” said the designer.

“This ‘innovation’ left no room for horses and hunting, and the nomadic lifestyle began to disappear,” he told Dezeen.

“I was interested in investigating and understanding how this forced transition came about and what remains of the previous culture in terms of aesthetics and habits.”

metal and wood horse saddle
Guarnaccia and Zhanna Ee designed a saddle together

Guarnaccia and Ee formed a group that explored both traditional craftsmanship and “alternative” materials, designing a birch saddle with a distinctive steel handle.

Designers Anna Ziegler, Belen Cabello and Timur Aktayev collaborated to design a saddle that focuses on the importance of comfort for horses, creating a stretched leather saddle with padded foam seating designed to cushion the skin of the horse.

“Understanding the difference between a recurring static lifestyle and a nomadic traditional lifestyle starts with understanding the relationship between a horse and its rider,” the designers said.

An old raincoat repurposed with hanging bags
Helena Postigo, Elena Ianeselli, Nomundari Munkhbaatar informed with an old raincoat

Another saddle was created from an old green-toned raincoat sourced from a local market, with rounded shapes referring to old saddles and hanging bags to store items during long journeys.

Designers Helena Postigo, Elena Ianeselli, Nomundari Munkhbaatar were inspired by the colors of the Kazakh steppe when designing the saddle, while the durability of the outdoor equipment used to create it aims to reflect the nomads’ “appreciation and connection with nature”.

Seat made of artificial felt
Daria Kokonja, Ryanne Flock and Elena Chantzis designed a customizable saddle.

Designers Daria Kokonja, Ryanne Flock and Elena Chantzis designed a saddle that can be disassembled and personalized with different materials using recycled plastic, steel screws, iron pipes and colored artificial felt.

The option to ‘personalize’ the saddle is not only practical, but also refers to the adaptive fluidity of identity. [Kazakhstan’s] social, cultural and political environment”.

Designers Kayla Welsh and Lucas Momparler chose to create their saddles in a deep blue shade with curved lines, a combination of materials such as birch, foam and elastic bands.

According to the designers, this design aims to salute both the “density” of modern city life and the “peaceful rhythms of the rural countryside”.

deep blue saddle
Kayla Welsh and Lucas Momparler designed a piece with curved lines.

“Saddles came from a desire to broaden his intent. [a] Guarnaccia evaluated the project as a whole.

“During the eight months of the first part of this project in the world, I realized that chairs are a very western concept of relaxation and wanted to explore other objects that respond to the sitting requirement.”

“Saddles are a very ancient object, and they haven’t evolved much in form or substance over the centuries,” he concluded.

At the end of the workshop, the saddles were presented at Kazakhstan’s Kasteyev State Art Museum and were also exhibited at the Union de la Jeunesse Internationale in Paris in October.

Director and cinematographer David Leon Fiene is currently producing a documentary about the project.

Other projects exploring the potential for seating include a furniture collection by Trent Jansen that takes cues from creatures referenced in Australian folklore and 3D-printed stools for beaches that double as shelters for marine animals.

Images courtesy of Matteo Guarnaccia.

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