We’re always on the lookout for iron art inspiration – we knew we had found it when we saw Studio Job’s new outdoor furniture for Seletti. We’ve admired and followed their work for several years and especially loved their wallpaper collection at Milan last year. This year they turned to garden furniture with The Industry Garden Furniture Collection inspired by motifs pulled from their archives (very much how their wallpaper collection came about). Signature motifs like butterflies and gas masks were used to reinterpret traditional garden furniture into hyper kitschy cast iron outdoor chairs and tables.
“The Industry theme is indeed an icon in our language,” said Studio Job. “It has been used in the most different ways.”
Cast iron garden furniture popular in the 18th century and looks very much the same today. Iron garden furniture evolved from the Industrial Revolution in the early 1800s when crews of skilled artisans and entire production facilities produced chairs, settees, sofas, love seats and more on a mass scale for both indoor and outdoor use. Cast iron became popular in America for use in garden furniture in the 1830s and 1840s. Cast iron and wrought iron patio furniture was initially painted green, brown and grey, but moved to white during the 19th century; modern cast or wrought iron patio furniture is typically painted black.*
These early manufacturers relied heavily on Rocco Revival designs, featuring rustic and natural themes such as grape-and-leaf motifs, intricate piercework, flower-and-scroll crests, floral garlands, curled handholds and much more. Designers also incorporated Renaissance Revival and Neoclassical motifs such as columns and lyres, creating pieces that offered antique ornamentation and vintage style. This style was quite appropriate, since this furniture was initially placed in cemeteries; the old-world influence continued into the late 1800s as the use moved towards the home. Studio Job has turned it on its ear, replacing the perforated swirling patterns used on the furniture’s flat surfaces with garden related imagery like butterflies and flowers.
Cast Iron vs. Wrought Iron
Cast iron is one of the oldest ferrous metals used in construction and outdoor ornament. Its composition is primarily iron (Fe), carbon (C) and silicon (Si). Cast iron is the most traditional form, and it is easy to cast but can’t be forged or worked (wrought) mechanically in either a hot or cold form. Historically, cast iron has been made by heating iron ore in a blast furnace along with coke and limestone. This process deoxidizes the ore and drives out any impurities, producing molten iron. It is then poured into molds of a desired shape (garden furniture) and allowed to cool and crystallize. Today cast garden furniture is usually made out of aluminum instead of iron.
Today modern products made from wrought iron are actually made from mild steel, and are called wrought iron because they are still worked (wrought) by hand. While modern wrought iron still utilizes “iron” or “mild steel”, modern cast products typically involve aluminum, with “iron” or “mild steel” being reserved strictly for wrought products. Orion uses both the wrought iron and cast methods for our line of iron drapery hardware. Our poles, rods, rings and accessories are wrought and our finials are cast.
Based in Antwerp and the Netherlands, Studio Job, a design duo founded over a decade ago by Job Smeets and Nynke Tynagel, produces one-off pieces of sculptural furniture that share little with the reigning aesthetic of minimalism and spareness. Their cast bronze works—tables whose surfaces are models of inverted cathedrals, lamps shamed like the Eiffel Tower—are laser cut for minute detailing and exquisite surface texture. Often described as “neo-gothic,” Studio Job’s pieces are fanciful without being kitschy.
*Dictionary of Furniture by Charles Boyce (Owl Books; Henry Holt and Company; 1985