Stoned by Fredrik Paulsen


19 October 2015

Swedish designer Fredrik Paulsen built his reputation on wood. Since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 2010, he has created simple wooden furniture pieces, staining the material with technicolour washes to set kaleidoscopic gradients rolling across its surface. A Fredrik Paulsen design is unmistakable.

Except Stoned, Paulsen’s most recent collection, is not very Fredrik Paulsen. At least not on its surface.

Stoned is a collection of chairs, lights and vessels, all of which have been either made from, or coated in, rose-coloured pulverised stone from a quarry in Öland, an island off Sweden. The objects, which are on display at Gallery Etage Projects in Copenhagen, are recognisably Paulsen in form – underlying the stone coatings are Paulsen’s familiar geometric timber constructions – yet the surface treatment seems a world away from the designer's earlier, exuberant work with colour.

“It’s a very monochromatic collection of works,” acknowledges Paulsen. “There’s colour, but only in one tone. Instead of playing with a spectrum of colours, I wanted to play with texture and how different textures behave.”

The project began when Paulsen became interested in the quarry on Öland. “The quarry has these stones that they mill from the island, which have a really interesting colour to them: they’re red, burgundy, pinkish. There is a big scrap pile of stone dust that’s produced when they process it and I found that so interesting. Everything began with me being curious about that. I’ve never worked with stone before, but I wanted to take the opportunity to learn something new.”

Paulsen took waste stone from Öland, pulverised it, and mixed it with binder. The result is a pink surface material that he used to coat wooden chairs and lights, as well as casting the material to form amorphous vessels. It proved a happy coincidence that the stone’s colour is similar to that of natural tanned leather. Two of the chairs have tanned leather seats, a third has a seat made from a slab of Öland stone. “It was not my intention from the beginning and I actually ordered three seats in leather,” acknowledges Paulsen. “But when I built the chairs, I placed a rock on the chair and it worked. It’s within the same spectrum.”

Nonetheless, the exact texture and tone of the Öland stone varies across the works. In some places it is smooth and light, delicately peachy; in other places it is dark and rougher, the stone deep and speckled. In all cases, it is dry. “It’s almost like salt and eats the moisture from your hands when you handle it,” says Paulsen. “It’s so dry it’s ridiculous.”

Paulsen’s work with colour explored the endless variations that could be achieved through a technique as simple as wood-staining, and his treatment of stone has a similar purpose. There is material variation across the collection, an effect heightened by Paulsen having experimented with different binders. “Some mixtures have been really hard and crack, whereas others become very foamy,” says Paulsen. “It’s been interesting for me to see that and obviously the colour changes depending on the binder too.” Stoned may be monochromatic, but it relishes tonal shifts within that monochrome.

Suddenly, Stoned begins to seem thoroughly Paulsenian, particularly when you consider the main binder that he ultimately chose to work with. “I tried everything and bought so many different things,” he says. “In the end I ended up using the wood glue that I use in all my projects; something that I have in my studio all the time. That was fun because that’s how I like to work anyway. I like to use what’s around me.”