Designers Antoine Behaghel and Alexis Foiny created sculptural olive wood furniture based solely on children’s drawings for a Galerie Philia exhibition.
Design Brut: Philia & Kids is the inaugural program of a non-profit initiative designed by the international art gallery Galerie Philia, which aims to involve children in design.
The first version of the project invited 19 children from a primary school in the French village of Breil-sur-Roya to design sculptural furniture, which is on display at Espace Meyer Zafra in Paris from November to last week.
Informed by the late French painter Jean Dubuffet, the initiative takes its name from art brut – or “raw art” – Dubuffet’s name for art created outside of academic limitations, such as art by children.
Participants aged six to seven participated in a five-month workshop where they were asked to draw their own interpretations of sculpture design under the supervision of BehaghelFoiny Studio founders Antoine Behaghel and Alexis Foiny and their teacher Virgile Ganne.
Drawings range from an alligator-like bench to colorful dining chairs and sharper, more abstract forms.
“A few shepherds’ children drew hooves on the feet of furniture or horns on the backs of chairs,” Behaghel and Foiny said.
“Others who live near the olive groves and the surrounding forest have drawn leaves and twigs on their furniture,” they told Dezeen.
To make the design experience collaborative, the designers explained that they encouraged children to “show their own creativity” and observe their classmates’ drawings and borrow forms from each other.
“After all, when confronted with furniture design, we realized that the children’s initial intentions were quite clever, and we copied the furniture shapes they see every day,” they said.
After that, Behaghel and Foiny sorted the drawings into different typologies of furniture, including tables, chairs, stools, coat racks, and standing desks, and categorized the creations according to “spirits and styles.”
The couple then worked with a carpenter in Breil-sur-Roya to bring the drawings to life by making physical furniture from local olive wood.
“In some places, we reduced or enlarged the silhouettes drawn by the children to better distribute the weight,” the designers said.
During this process, the children were shown each stage of the production process by taking a tour of a local sawmill to help them get used to carpentry.
Behaghel and Foiny explained that the olive tree was chosen for its cultural significance for Breil-sur-Roya, known as “pays des oliviers” (the land of the olive tree).
The designers painted the material in a variety of colorful hues, aiming to subtly color rather than hide its grainy surface.
“Associating the intervention of very young children with a millennial tree seemed very relevant to us!” drew attention to the designers.
The duo hopes that the workshop will teach children the importance of furniture design while at the same time displaying their personal creativity without limits.
“Finally, the children’s drawings showed real spontaneity,” Behaghel and Foiny said.
“Both are devoid of technical reflexes and therefore have caused us to take risks and also break away from the aesthetic automatisms we more or less consciously impose on ourselves as professional designers,” they added.
“They led us to de-standardize tastes and beauty, to play more with imbalances and proportions.”
This isn’t the first time kids have tried their hand at chair design. Under the supervision of art instructor Bruce Edelstein, third and fourth graders at a New York school designed a series of seating collections, including horn chairs and other wooden armchairs.
Photo courtesy of Maison Mouton Noir.
Design Brut: Philia & Kids is on display at Espace Meyer Zafra from November 10 to December 8, 2022. See the Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events happening around the world.