Liam Lee designs felt furniture that refers to nature


Liam leeThe s designs often look like something that could have come from the concept drawing of a futuristic sci-fi movie. He carves dimensional furniture and textiles from brightly colored wool that he hand-dyed and hand-felt, riffing on shapes he has seen under a microscope and in the natural world: a coral-colored stool which looks like a tangle of intestines, a bumpy chartreuse chair that is looks like some kind of metastatic growth, a sculptural textile with a meandering pattern that looks like bacteria under a microscope. Lee is excited about what viewers associate with his work, even if they are a little squeamish about it. “I like that some people are disgusted because you are in this strange space where an object is either considered really beautiful or just this crass and inaccessible thing,” he says. “I want the viewer to approach it without any preconceived idea of ​​what it’s supposed to be.”

Liam Lee sketches and paints abstract shapes that are loosely based on shapes he sees in the natural world. He then refers to these drawings and paintings in his felted textile panels and furniture.
Photo: Chris Mottalini

While studying how modernist writers used domestic spaces to construct their characters, as James Joyce did in Dubliners, Lee was interested in how interior design reflects what is going on in our minds. During the pandemic, Lee became more obsessed with the idea. “When we were all sort of trapped in lockdown, I thought about how the home interior can become that space of safety and anxiety, where you worry about pathogens or people walking in, and you try. just sealing it all in, “he says. His furniture speaks of this porosity between the outside world and our interiors – embracing it through design that references microbes, pods, fungi, and natural forms.

Lee took up the art of fiber as a hobby just a few years ago. He wanted a creative outlet outside of work he did for set designer Mary Howard, and felting was a craft he could do without soiling his apartment too much. It has since experienced a rapid rise. He sold his first piece, a hand felted textile panel, in 2019 at Forgotten coffee and shortly after his work was taken over by the Noguchi museum store and Heather ceramic. This summer, Pink trial included one of Lee’s textile panels in his “Home Around You” collective exhibition. Next week, Lee is exhibiting his first six-piece furniture collection with design dealer Patrick Parrish at the Art & Design Salon and will show more of his textile panels at the FOG Design + Art fair in San Francisco early next year.

Photo: Liam Lee

“I dye my wool by hand. The color of this textile panel is inspired by moss and forest soil. I visited a zen garden in a Japanese temple and was really interested in how this rectangle of moss was treated there. It was a continuous green surface, but you could see the shapes it covered, and you could almost imagine what was below. The shapes are vaguely abstract notions of bacteria, yeasts and pods. I took microbiology in high school and really enjoyed looking at rough things under a microscope.

Photo: Chris Mottalini

“I do needle felting in my work and I started building the surfaces of my textiles – the first ones were pretty flat – and I wanted to push this material out and see how sculptural it could get, so I started to design furniture. I first made these pieces of furniture without any intention of showing them. I was just focused on what I could do with the material. I was looking at the enoki mushrooms when I made them.

Photo: Chris Mottalini

“I was looking at a rooster crest flower when I made this chair. I love them because they are so weird. All of my pieces are untitled, and I like to leave them untitled because someone might say, “Oh, that’s a flower. It’s a brain. The gradient of this chair was created by just seeing which colors worked together. It happened during the manufacturing process. I’m just holding scraps and pieces of yarn next to each other and see if I like the jumpsuit.

Photo: Chris Mottalini

“I try to grow the wool in the form of a chair that also looks like something completely foreign or that we don’t necessarily see as belonging to a house. Particularly during confinement, when you can’t get out, there is this desire for nature, this desire for the outside world. At the start of the pandemic, I did not leave my home for three weeks, except to do grocery shopping. By making household objects imitate or look like something else from nature, you can then turn your home into a small space or a weird dream world where you don’t have to leave your home because everything. this world is contained therein.


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