Max Lamb at Johnson Trading Gallery



A solo exhibition by British designer Max Lamb has opened at Johnson Trading Gallery in New York, featuring a new series of furniture cut from solid rock.


The rock chairs are made of a stone called Delaware Bluestone. Top image: Delaware Bluestone Chair (no. 1 ). Above: La Cernia Table


The exhibition runs until 7 November at Johnson Trading Gallery, 490 Greenwich Street, New York 10013. Above: Delaware Bluestone Sidetable. The following is from Johnson Trading Gallery:


Above: Delaware Bluestone Chair (no. 4 ) Below: Delaware Bluestone Chair (no. 3 )


The following is from Johnson Trading Gallery:



New York Show Marks U.S. Debut Combining High Tech with Hand Hewn

Johnson Trading Gallery presents the first U.S. exhibition of contemporary furniture by British designer Max Lamb.


The exhibition features new commissions Lamb has crafted from New York bluestone, along with a retrospective of important limestone, pewter, bronze, copper, wool felt, and polystyrene objects, demonstrating why his work has captured the attention of the international design community. Above: Delaware Bluestone Chair (no. 2 )


A series of films will offer an understanding of Lamb’s design philosophy and processes. The exhibition will be on view from October 8 through November 9, at Johnson Trading Gallery, 490 Greenwich Street, New York City. Above: Delaware Bluestone Slice Bench (no. 1 )


One of a group of dynamic young British designers who are leading the pack internationally, Lamb was featured as one of four Designers of the Future at Design Miami/Basel 2008. He is known for the creative vision he brings to contemporary furniture design, for his high level of technical skill, and for his drive, as he explains, “to explore and re-contextualize both traditional and unconventional materials, celebrating their inherent qualities, and to reconsider the function of all objects.” Above: Delaware Bluestone Twin Tables


The new works in this exhibition, evolving from his previous collection ‘Exercises in Seating’, a consistent theme throughout his career, exemplify Lamb’s skills as a designer, a craftsman, and an artist. For this exhibition, Max has created new works in Delaware Bluestone. A naturally blue sediment stone with a strong historic connection to New York, it is visible throughout the city’s sidewalks and architecture. Above: Delaware Bluestone Bench, Below: Delaware Bluestone Table


Bluestone, found predominantly in the Catskill Delta, was created over 350 million years ago from run-off from the Acadian Mountains, which covered the area where New York City now exists. Lamb traveled from London to the Catskills to search for suitable and inspiring pieces of stone from which to carve furniture. He collected stones from four bluestone quarries and worked directly with one, combining hand-carving and machine-cutting techniques to create a collection of chairs, tables, benches and stools. His previous stone work in limestone and sandstone, exhibited at Design Miami/ Basel 2008, along with early experiments in carving Cornish granite, advanced his well-honed skill set and his understanding of how to work with this heavy and difficult material.

The retrospective work in the exhibit includes a large, hand carved Polystyrene Dining Table and eight Poly Chairs, White Bronze Poly Chairs, a Nano crystal-line Copper Stool, and a collection of turned Concrete and Felt Stools from Lamb’s Solids of Revolution project developed for the 2008 Designer of the Future Award.


Lamb notes, “My recent work has been very preoccupied with processes and materials, and alternative ways in which these can be manipulated, exploring the potential of local skill-based industries, combining skilled hand-craft techniques with native materials, and sometimes juxtaposing these with digital processes and the hightech.”

Graduating from Northumbria University with a degree in Three Dimensional Design in 2003, Lamb earned early recognition for his talent, receiving the 2003 Peter Walker Award for Innovation in Furniture Design and a 2004 Hettich International Design Award. Before launching his independent design practice in 2007, Lamb worked with Tom Dixon, designing furniture for his Special Project series. His career began as a design consultant for Ou Baholyodhin Studio, London, designing furniture, graphics, interior products, restaurants, shops, exhibitions, and residential interiors.

In 2006, he earned a Masters Degree in Design Products at the Royal College of Art, focusing on furniture forms and establishing a precise, process-driven approach to design. A strong international sensibility cultivated in travel to China, India, Nigeria, Japan and elsewhere, and an appreciation for natural materials, born of his love of the outdoors, infuse Lamb’s work. His pieces have been exhibited internationally, including Tokyo, Stockholm, Milan and London, as well as in Miami and Basel.


Johnson Trading Gallery is committed to commissioning and funding unique contemporary works from emerging artists, designers and architects, and to curating exhibitions of the finest 20th Century design. Paul Johnson made his name as owner and operator of Phurniture Inc., founded in 2001. His extensive knowledge and vast collection of historical design, as well as his attraction to contemporary artists that push boundaries, proved invaluable to his future as design gallerist.

Operating now as Johnson Trading Gallery, the space aims to showcase rare works by established masters such as Paul Evans, George Nakashima, David Ebner and Mario Dal Fabbro, in addition to simultaneously creating an outlet for current commissioned artists Aranda/Lasch, Steven Holl and Joseph Heidecker. The result: an environment that serves as a contextualized timeline of historical precedence and modern technology.

Posted on Thursday October 9th 2008 at 2:04 pm by Matylda Krzykowski. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • I’m not here to discuss Max’s work. Love or hate it – or indifferent. I would if possible like to throw the floor open to any persuasive voices (such as the 3% Ninja) on why why why graduates should be persuaded to move into mass production rather than the ‘art’ market.

    Dezeen – could please open a forum where this kind of thing can happen in private?


    Message to the 3% ninja

    I’m responding respectfully as you are obviously experienced designer, and I think it’s very healthy advice you give to young designer, particularly to suggest to choose a company based on their distribution network rather than the glossy photo shoot products. But I need to continue bursting some bubbles – and I would like to strongly disagree with your proposal of how it works ‘in the industry’. (n.b. I would love you to really be the 3% ninja and explain more about how to achieve this rather than end up teaching in a college.)

    Point 1 : You make an unfair comparison between life of a graduate and the world of Jasper Morrison suggesting that he be a role model for young graduates. This is fundamentally wrong, as Jasper Morrison is shall we say a ‘celebrity designer’ at the top of his game. Most designers, in fact most people, are mediocre in their life goals – and therefore to suggest that normal persons products might be sold in the numbers you propose at the price you propose is, I’m sad to say, unrealistic. To suggest Jasper as (super) normal is like proposing that anyone of us could be a pop star – or Ron Arad.

    Therefore, I maintain, most people end up designing several average products for several average companies. And following several years involving unpaid ‘business trips’ to Italy which finally result in some fat guy explaining that ‘sales have not been great’ they end up with less money than they started and have to take up teaching job to make ends meet and or web design. If there were higher cuts paid to designers (a design fee as well as higher royalty) it could be possible to make things business.
    Please please someone (else) step up and say that this is not true (anyone from Jaspers office?)

    Point 2. Longevtity:

    Your advice to create a product with a long life span (so as to maximize profit) is faulted.

    Sadly the idea of designing something ‘really well’ is more complex today than before. Fashion and changing taste is much more complex than choosing a wood that will last a lifetime in furniture design that will look ‘ugly’ to tomorrows children. I think that’s a good thing. Taste and beauty should be highly personal and different from person to person and I don’t think you should have your parents taste. However this does mean that products have a short life span – and your suggestion to design a product that lasts ten years is fundamentally faulted. Again you cite Jasper Morrison products as having such longevity – yet looking to the Air Chair today (of which he states he is embarrassed to see littering the cafes around the world) they look highly dated and also mostly run down. The condition of the now scuffed dirty plastic alone I’m sure means that they will be in the thrift stores come next year. ( book ‘Eternally yours’ by Brian Eno for issue on longevity)

    For young designer to design a product that has a healthy profitable life span of more than 2 years is so rare as to be negligible. Your prediction of a product selling ‘500 a year, for say 10 years’ is rare beyond recognition – are we talking chairs or medical equipment or bed? The reality for most young designers is – product sells few hundred for first year then stops. Please again someone declare opposite.

    point 3. I’m curious about the poll that shows 35% of design students are working towards the limited edition market. I doubt that any credible poll could reveal the complexity of a students goals (or graduates goals) in this changing climate and is totally dependent on the questions asked – eg. most graduates if asked would agree to work for a gallery waving money at them as much as if a company wanted to produce something of theirs. I doubt anyone is too idealistic (what ideal?!?!) to aim for the traditional route in the face of real offered money. Please 3% let us know where you saw this.

    I would propose that it’s going to be a few years yet before we find out if its worth being a ‘design artist’ from financial point of view, and will need a few case studies. But I would not suggest to an enthusiastic graduate that ‘better the devil you know’ is a particularly interesting way of life for a creative person.

  • zuy

    After 7 years of green , art index is now red (very bad) since june 2008, so the actual financial and economic crisis will impact art market and art design market 2 or 3 months before after the beginning of the economic crises so before the end of the year… Right now famous french design galleries change their stategy …

  • zuy

    sorry for my english

    I had discussions with design experts : how to promote design without design industry in a country . Starck will not be STARck with less than 5 french design manufacturers so french designers need to go to Italy…but some majors doors are closed to young designers…because the STARS closed them. There are some exceptions: the Bouroullec brothers works with the Swiss Vitra ( 80% of their bizz)and they had media success but no commercial success with Capellini in Italy. So this trendy italian company sold some Boulroullec's products to a famous french gallery than increase the prices and sold it easily to art design market….but the times are changing right now with the deep financial and economic crisis and the art design market will become smaller.

  • cedric

    well, fuck the tide, i think this is cool. i also see on designboom that this rock collection is a component of the whole collection, not the entirity, so i think this post is slightly out of context..

    but nice work max. dont worry about the slagers off.. i like the fact that YOU can cut and polish stone and make it work… most other designers would not have the touch, confidnece and indeed profile to make this a successful exhibition.

    dont over analise, its design intended for art consumers not american households.

  • jack

    Just went to the gallery website and viewed the entire show with all the films

    it is an incredible body of work, that really shows Max's skill.

    Part designer, artist and craftsmen, this work has everything it needs.

    people should really view all the films and see the process

    everybody has there own opinion and I think this work is intelligent,

    skilled and beautiful!

  • Japr

    this guy is getting comissions faster than he gets ideas. he might reject some exposure every now and then or he will risk throwing it all away. it’s not even healthy to pop un every 3 weeks with a new exhibition, and it’s the result itself to pay the price of overstress. congrats anyway (he is exhibiting, we are criticising) but take some time to filtering ideas. anything counts, but no one eats broken glass.

  • Dev

    Just a few questions:

    I would love some of there for my kitchen, do they stack?

    I like max’s stuff usually and I love the use of materials here but he’s use of simplicity has gone too far. This panders to the people in the design world who like to talk/write without knowing about design.

    Sorry Max

  • mcfetterige

    I agree with many of the criticisms above especially those about a general lack of ‘craft’, skill and a developed idea. It is simple work and that isn’t a compliment.

    However, I do feel a bit sorry for this Max fellow, who I’m sure is reading these comments. I do think he is out of bright ideas just now which doesn’t mean he is a bad designer. As someone above said, “he is receiving investment faster than he is producing ideas.” But this is normal and you really cant be so hard on someone in that position- what would you do? Tell the Gallerist that you aren’t ready for his trust and USD? Hell no! “Fake it Till You Make It” is the phrase that says it best, I think.

    What I would like to bring into the discussion though, is the responsibility of the Currator to his artist. I think he is largely the person who should be given the blame for this generally flat, poor exhibition. I think he has not measured his artist properly and injected too much promotion, pressure, investment, trust into someone who isn’t ready.

    It is an understandable state: Lamb was generating alot of revenue for him previously, and ofcourse the Gallery gets used to the revenue and wants more. The danger is though, that you will burn out your artist and leave him tarnished by bad work and a slew of negative public comments like those above.

    This predicament is a common curratorial pitfal in the art world too. It is funny to see how the ‘Art-mirroring world of High Design’ will absorb moments like this since the Design market is so new (I really think it only began in 2005 with the first Design Miami) and it has never been through an economic downturn. Just to say, this situation where a gallery burns out its artist is common in the world of Fine art, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out in the world of Design Galleries.

    Shame on you currator! You must remember to rotate your crops and allow the soil to re-fertilize itself. In the mean time, show us something totally new from someone we don’t already know and let Lamb get his bearings again..

  • richard

    What bothers me about the text-brief from Max Lamb and his Gallery is that it rides on the wagon of advances in digital design-

    This project doesn’t employ high-tech. This is Bollocks. He is using a saw on rocks.
    What this project employs is loads of money to make it happen. There are very interesting experiments happening via digital processes (Including Johnson’s own Aranda/Lasch as a good example. But please- don’t corrupt the language by saying this is an experiment in the meeting of high tech and the rough-hewn.

  • Tom


    Can’t see why people are slating it!?

  • l. brathwaite

    I agree with some of what has been discussed here. This project has a feeling of being ‘spoilt’, a bit like a child. I think it is the combination of the very, very simple (lack?) of arresting craft or concept combined with what we assume to be very high-prices gives it this ‘bratty’ feeling.

    Following the recent financial fall out, it does feel out-of-date, in a way.

    It will be interesting to see what new work is presented at December’s Design Miami.

  • Tom – it’s Delaware Bluestone, not slate.

  • onequarter

    Thanks to the great artist who was Scott Burton! Max Lamb could mention him at least!