Dezeen Magazine

Adam Nathaniel Furman's HK furniture collection is inspired by a friendly cyclops

London designer Adam Nathaniel Furman has teamed up with Scottish surfaces manufacturer Mirrl to develop a furniture collection informed by Japanese lacquerwork and a folkloric one-eyed boy.

The Glasgow-based company worked with Furman to examine alternative applications for its solid surface material, which is more typically used for tabletops, kitchens, bathrooms and cladding.

They settled upon a collection of furniture called HK using the material, opting initially for a chair, stool and bench.

HK Collection for Mirrl by Adam Nathaniel Furman

Mirrl is made by applying multiple patterned layers of tinted resin in different tones or colours to a birch-plywood substrate. This results in a distinctive organic pattern that is currently produced in a range of eight core colourways.

The manufacturing process used to produce Mirrl is inspired by the ancient art of Tsugaru Nuri lacquerware, which the company's co-founder Simon Harlow encountered when living in Japan.

HK Collection for Mirrl by Adam Nathaniel Furman

Harlow was impressed by the intricate patterns the lacquer artists were able to achieve when creating small-scale heirloom pieces and began looking for ways to replicate this effect more quickly and affordably.

"Traditional Tsugaru Nuri lacquerwork is incredibly time consuming because it uses sap from the sumac tree and each layer takes about three weeks to dry," Harlow told Dezeen.

"I thought it was too beautiful not to be used in a bigger way so more people can see it. Fortunately modern resins cure much more quickly so I was able to produce the same effect on a larger scale."

HK Collection for Mirrl by Adam Nathaniel Furman

The material that Harlow eventually developed is highly resilient and easy to clean, maintain and repair, which makes it suitable for a wide range of domestic and commercial applications.

The product's aesthetic and background story appealed to Adam Nathaniel Furman, who has strong familial ties to Japan and is heavily influenced by aspects of the country's heritage and folklore.

HK Collection for Mirrl by Adam Nathaniel Furman

"For this collaboration, I created a narrative based on stories my grandmother would tell me about a little one-eyed boy who would jump out in the middle of the night and try to lick you," the designer explained.

The character of the boy called Hitotsume-kozō is similar to a cyclops but is typically depicted in a friendly or humorous context.

The chair, stool and bench that Furman designed each feature rounded forms and a circular hole that evokes the supernatural apparition's single eye.

HK Collection for Mirrl by Adam Nathaniel Furman

Other influences came from Furman's ongoing interest in what he describes as "queer aesthetics", as well as the current trend for materials that display the properties of terrazzo or concrete.

"Mirrl plays on the visual appeal of aggregate materials but is made of resin so it's not cementitious," he pointed out. "When we're giggling about the project we describe it as 'gaycrete'."

HK Collection for Mirrl by Adam Nathaniel Furman

Furman's recent projects have included a collection of brightly coloured furniture for an Italian laminate brand and a pair of cartoon-inspired cabinets that mimic the colours of Japanese Anime shops.

The furniture collection he developed with Mirrl is intended to demonstrate how the material can be applied to three-dimensional forms as well as flat surfaces.

HK Collection for Mirrl by Adam Nathaniel Furman

The team devised a technique for heating and moulding the material onto a bent plywood substrate to achieve the curved shapes needed to create the seat backs. The rounded edges are produced by casting the material in a U-shaped channel.

The laminate material is seamlessly jointed and sanded to ensure the finished pieces are completely smooth, airtight and waterproof.

Working prototypes of the furniture were developed for and presented at Design Exhibition Scotland, a showcase of Scottish design and manufacturing that took place in Edinburgh from 28 June to 2 July 2019.

Photography is by Johnny Barrington.