In the age of COVID-19, manufacturing has to be done differently. To that end, the American Hardwood Export Council inaugurated Connected, a project inviting nine designers to develop timber products fit for life in lockdown. Among the cohort was Valencia-based creative Jaime Hayon, whose contribution — a multi-functional table called Mesamachine that comes equipped with coordinated seating — is the ideal pandemic object: an extendable furnishing with drawers, hooks and shelves designed to provide a single space for working, relaxing, exploring, eating and spending time with family.
According to Sean Sutcliffe — a co-founder of Britain’s Benchmark Furniture, which worked remotely with the designers on the production of their respective creations — Hayon’s curvaceous “Swiss Army knife” of a table displays significant technical prowess. Made of solid American cherry (what the designer describes as “a material that’s alive, a material that changes, a material that challenges you”), Mesamachine is constructed like a hollow torsion box, with a spine and tensioning ribs along it.
Comprising elements hand turned on a lathe or CNC-machined and then finished by hand, the “skeleton” is on view from underneath to show off the “true complexity of the build.” As Sutcliffe deservedly brags, “the piece represented a tour-de-force of cabinetmaking.”
A key to success for this long-distance collaboration? Trust. “Normally, the designer would visit our workshops, feel how the timber profiles, joints or angles work together and then tweak and adjust details accordingly,” says Sutcliffe. “As we’ve gone from design and development to production and remained in close contact via video calls, they’ve learned to put their faith in our craftspeople.”
Another hurdle was texture and colour — aspects lost in digital exchanges. But, for Hayon, one of the most significant adjustments was less about realizing a physical object than working in a shelter-in-place lifestyle. “The biggest change of all,” he said in one of his video dispatches, “is to sit down peacefully with the ideas.”
As part of the long-distance project Connected, the Spanish designer and British manufacturer unveiled Mesamachine.