The story of this bed really starts around 10,000 years ago in the Neolithic period – likely long before any human occupation in Aotearoa, New Zealand. A time when native trees, rather than people, dominated the land we now callhome.
One images that when humans came to New Zealand, their beds would likely be made from skins, raised up from the ground, or covering rudimentary mattresses of soft leaves.
For my bed, I wanted to connect to both these histories, but also create a genuinely timeless and cross-cultural piece of furniture art, to represent – and celebrate – the fascinating country and culture of Aotearoa, New Zealand.
Why design a bed?
The function of a bed encapsulates all the major milestones in most human lives – from the creation of life itself, to the very end of it. (Not to mention all the fun bits in between!)
There’s something universally human about a bed too. Rich or poor, healthy or sick, single or shared, it’s the single piece of furniture upon which we literally spend the best part of lives.
In terms of design, I wanted to embrace this universal concept – but also acknowledge the myriad of cross-cultural references that make up the idea of ‘Aotearoa, New Zealand’.
100% Pure New Zealand-ish.
Just like the cultural makeup of Aotearoa, New Zealand, the bed design references influences from far and wide, including South Pacific, Asian (particularly Japanese) and European design aesthetics. There’s also a gentle, but distinctive nod to Maori carving techniques and architecture.
When I listed my influences for this work, I was surprised at the mix of local and international artistic influences, including Brancusi, Michael Parekowhai, Louise Nevelson, the film The Piano, Alberto Giacometti, William Mitchell, and Thornton Dail.
Naturally, we can’t ignore the colonial influences – good and bad – on New Zealand. And the fact this is a grand four poster bed speaks of this heritage, as well as historical grandeur.
As such, this bed literally becomes a place where these differing cultures, influences, and traditions meet to create something unified and special. A bit like the people of New Zealand, who are known throughout the world for living in relative harmony together.
Hand-made, for sleepy heads.
When I decided that I wanted to make a contemporary bed, I also wanted to acknowledge and respect traditional techniques and age-old practices. That’s why this bed was made entirely by hand in my workshop on the Kaipara Harbour, using over 500 hours (over 3-and-a-half months) of painstaking craftsmanship, a steady supply of support from my partner Louise, and interspersed by play dates with my young child Lily.
There was a lot of drawing, model making, testing, carving, shaping and design thinking before I ultimately landed on this design.
A new bed with an old soul.
The bed is made from around 95% recycled materials, including off-cuts and salvaged timbers. This aspect is really important to me, as I love the idea that it has already ‘lived’ before; something which new or entirely machine-made pieces just don’t seem to offer.
I find using recycled material also leads me to a different design process, where the actual material becomes the starting point, and which can, to a certain extent even influence the form.
The main frame of the bed is made from Rimu, with a small amount of Kauri. While the assemblage pieces on the head and tail board are a vast range of different timbers, both native and foreign, from off cuts, furniture components and architectural embellishments.
Techniques as old as the trees.
The joinery techniques used are through mortise and tenon that has been wedged. There is no glue. No screws or fixings. Just the ancient use of interlocking timbers, made tight and strong from the wedge – a technique that can be traced back over 7,000 years. If you look closely, you’ll see there are lots of repairs in the timber. I like this; there’s a certain beauty to a repair when done well.
The bed has a gentle pattern on the interior, intricate and playful. While the exterior has a clear, simple and calm serenity to it. I designed it to sit ever so lightly on the ground, with a delicate footprint – perhaps even a metaphor forits low environmental impact.
The painting of the random pieces on the head and tail board turn them into a cohesive whole, transforming the bed into a lively, contemporary statement, but with a welcoming embrace. Many of these pieces are literal off-cuts from the making of the rest of the bed, so they feed back into the body of the work.
And so I’ve made my bed. But now it’s time for someone else to enjoy lying in it.
Sweet dreams, Rupert.
AVAILABLE TO PURCHASE
If you would like to enquire about purchasing this beautiful piece of art / furniture please contact me.
RUPERT’S BED – FAST FACTS:
- All Rimu timber is salvage from houses within the Auckland area.
- By accident, the top ring beam pieces above the head and tail board seem to have created a optical illusion due to the relief pattern and paint. It appears that the timber is narrower in the middle [pinched in]
- I have researched 4 poster beds extensively and as far as I can see this bed is completely unique both in design and concept.
- The components that make up the head and tail board show a history of my work over the past 5 years as many of them are recycled pieces [off cuts] from many other projects.
- The bed sheet is from North India, it is traditionally, completely hand stitched with cut work. 100% fine cotton.
- Within Maori tradition [folk law?] These colors come from the story of creation. The black represents Te Po The darkness, the red represents the blood that was spilt and the white represents Te Ao Marama – the light.
- Coincidently the black I chose is called Uhi which is Maori for chisel. Rather apt I thought.
- Originally the red paint was called Kokowai – Red Ochre. It is used in a number of traditional ceremonies, and when applied along with a karakia [Maori blessing/prayer] it becomes tapu [sacred]. The Kokowai was burnt in a fire, ground into a powder and mixed with shark oil to make paint. The paint was then used as a stain for wood carvings and for kowhaiwhai patterns painted on the rafters of meeting houses.
- The cuts on the 4 main posts are at varying angles and spaces, the angles getting shallower as they go up and the spacing becoming larger. This is to give it a feeling of getting lighter as it gains in height. Reaching up high to the sky. It is a very positive piece of work. It reaches up and out, like open arms inviting you in.
- This bed has been build to last hundreds of years, through many generations. I am excited for it’s future and curious to it’s destiny.