Deborah Needleman's Traveling Chair

Deborah Needleman

I find the materials of nature infinitely alluring and beautiful. To be able to interact with the life cycle of plants, by creating gardens, has always felt like a privilege. Interjecting one’s design ideas on plants involves a relationship--a back and forth between person and plant that is quite like a conversation. One’s vision must be tempered by the will and sensitivities of the plant–where it will grow, what conditions and treatment it requires. In the past few years, my relationship to the landscape has extended into the making of baskets. With craft, I find this ‘conversation’ even deeper, and the transformation of plants into useful and beautiful objects has taken hold of my imagination and my days. This chair, made of rush, Scirpus lacustris, a tall sedge that grows in rivers and wetlands, is essentially a basket constructed over the form of the chair.

I used the most basic weave technique—the one that forms the foundation for every textile–in which the elements are woven one over and under the other repeatedly. The resulting check pattern is infinitely simple and satisfying to me---both to create and to observe.

Wrapping this chair in a material I love and a pattern I love, was a delightful exercise. I learned as I went—how to make a cushion, turn corners, connect areas one to the other. The piping around the cushion was made by twisting the rush into cord.

There is something about wrapping something that is appealing in part because it creates a decorative pattern, but also because it felt sort of like an embrace to cover, protect, embellish an object. But nothing that goes on in my head needs to be understood by a person who comes to possess an object I make. The object becomes a thing out in the world entirely separate from me.

I love the thought that the materials of this chair may go from growing in a river—having passed for a time through my hands—to living amongst someone else’s things, wordlessly weaving itself into the fabric of their life.


For the Traveling Chair exhibit, Deborah Needleman customized the Gullers Side Chair by Eleish Van Breems. Her chair is available on the Cabana website. Elena Paisley fabric by Cabana x Schumacher.