Selfportrait by Ka-Lai Chan


Utrecht School of the Arts graduate Ka-Lai Chan has designed a bulging chair representing her suppressed emotions.

Parts of the chair are swollen and bulging, while textile elements break through the surface and symbolise her personality revealing itself.

The piece is supported by a metal frame and upholstered in stretch PU leather. Polyether foam fills the chair and forces lycra patches outwards through holes in the leather.

Top image is by Marion Panhuijzen. All other images are by Ka-Lai Chan.

Here's some text from Ka-Lai Chan:


"Selfportrait’ is a graduation project based on the emotions and suppressed feelings what Ka-Lai Chan has experienced. The chair expresses the designer’s own personality and character.

“In the past I have always found myself to be a quiet and introvert person. I suppressed my own emotions and didn't dare to show my feelings to other people. I was afraid that people will find me weird for being who I am. It felt like there was something growing on me which gets bigger and bigger like a tumor. I always tend to hide away my personality, but on the other hand I wanted nothing more but to open up and just be myself.”

The round and swollen parts of the chair design 'Selfportrait' represent the suppressed emotions, which reflects a certain tension. The holes in the skin are created by the inside (me) that wants to come out. It pushes the skin open. The real personality of me and my emotions which want to reveal itself to the outside world.

Ka-Lai Chan is a 2009 graduate product designer from the school of arts in Utrecht.

"In my designs I try to astonish and suprise people. Why is everything as it? And everybody takes it as it is. Everything could be different. Nothing is as it should be. Within my designs I try to create forms and products that are not too obvious. I play and experiment with material and shapes. That's how unique and creative products are brought to daylight."

Posted on Wednesday September 16th 2009 at 1:56 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • O.

    Are there any medicines for that?

  • oxo

    …and what about therapy?

  • Tim

    Com’on, I underdtand what she means.

  • I really don’t know what to think about this chair. It is interesting, that’s for sure, but I always look at projects that claim to represent something with a very critical eye. Take away all of the text that explains it. If you look at the chair and someone told you “This represents my suppressed emotions” would you agree? I see the tension in the piece, but I find it hard to say that this fits the description. It could symbolize so many things, many of which might occur to the observer far before the idea of suppressed emotions. It’s one thing to say something represents something else and a whole other thing to pull it off clearly. I may be a slight bit critical, I know.

  • gray

    emotional tumors

  • I’ve always felt emotional repression plays a significant role in tumors. This is like a portrait of Dorian Gray. I don’t think I’d want it in the house.

  • subvertlab

    would bring some emotion to the vitra jasper morisson sofa advertised on the same page…

  • As the vicious pustules multiplied the doctors just looked on and shivered. Every now and then spraying topical antibiotics onto the ever expanding surface…

  • Leedah

    very good expression of the suppressed emotions .. i can feel them .. now ‘scuze me am sick i need to lay down

  • B

    please stop abusing chairs for things they are not meant to be used for..
    if you really feel the need as a designer to express your feelings through a piece of furniture…why a chair..a vase ..a table…if you can not give a decent answer to this..try making a painting or a sculptureand and leave the furniture alone.
    yes we all know that furniture can be more than just the pure function..and it can be art..yes…but in most cases very bad art..

  • Radley

    This is the third piece of “fat” furniture I have seen in one month.

  • yo

    Has this any design interest?

  • Cr

    Design a good chair > sit on it > and write a poem if you need therapy !

  • Freddie

    please correct the first sentence of the article,

    Utrecht School of the Arts graduate Ka-Lai Chan has DESIGNED a bulging CHAIR representing her suppressed emotions.


    Utrecht School of the Arts graduate Ka-Lai Chan has PUT TOGETHER a bulging THING representing her suppressed emotions.

    good for her.

  • L

    i think is very interesting piece of furniture. Why not? Chairs has been one of the main pieces for designers to express their creativity and ideas through the times. i can see and feel the suppression and i also believe that every user can translate it into his/her experiences and picture personal moments of unexpressed emotions. Now if i break down the elements of function of the chair i would say that i can see the bump on the bottom to be very useful positioning our legs in different ways, as we always do when we sit on a chair, the one the back though i think it could be useful as a cushion and support for our heads but saying that, i think is no tvery functional size wise. It should’ve been a bit smaller.

    overall i think is a good piece of work.

  • adam

    Good for you Freddie.

    You are a dick.

  • nidge
  • @nidge– you are spot on! I was trying to place specifically who or what this evoked.
    Actually a furniture line inspired by Leigh Bowery would be worth looking into.

  • pragmatic

    This is more of an art or design statement than anything practical.

    I mean, it’s a chair, right?

    It would be rather uncomfortable to sit in.

  • MonkeyWrench

    What makes a chair an appropriate medium for self expression? If this is a work of art then I think it’s interesting and I quite like it. If it’s supposed to be design then using the form of an object to express yourself just seems like an abuse of the power given to designers to influence other people’s surroundings.

    “Good design is unobtrusive”- Dieter Rams. Personally, I think sitting on this chair would feel like peeing in Duchamp’s fountain.