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Material World: Fabrics now compete with glass

Post Time:Apr 13,2009Classify:Industry NewsView:402

Designers have often appropriated drapery or upholstery fabrics and altered them to simulate other materials. They have infused them with resin and plastic to use as room-dividers, or to make furniture.

In 2000, KnollTextiles pioneered Imago, a stiff, translucent sheet of fabric embedded in resin. It resembles textured glass and can be cut and sanded like wood. This "frozen fabric," developed by Suzanne Tick, former creative director of KnollTextiles, has been used as a translucent divider, and as decorative window shades. Although Knoll has limited its standard Imago designs to eight patterns, it can produce unlimited bespoke 4-foot-by-8-foot versions by using almost any KnollTextiles fabric.

At Press Club, a modernistic wine-tasting room in San Francisco, architect and designer Chris Von Eckartsberg has used other materials to evoke the Wine Country: American black walnut for walls, green wine bottles for sculptural displays, pastoral Maharam cloth designed by Hella Jongerius for banquettes, concrete stone-like floors and cork panel ceilings. But the intriguing standouts are cylindrical light shades made of KnollTextiles' very first version of milky white Progeny Blonde Imago.

Other panels share Progeny's translucency and lightness; they resemble glass, grass cloth and plastic meshed together. Because Progeny is pale and its texture is subtle, it diffuses light evenly and so Eckartsberg and designer Anna Pahucki also used it for backlit back bars at Press Club.

The Imago shades, derived from designs by Seattle's Resolute lighting company, demonstrate another aspect of this material: When heated, it can be curved or folded sharply.

Since Imago's debut, KnollTextiles has steadily experimented with other fabrics.

The latest, Air Rights by Tick under the aegis of current KnollTextiles creative director Dorothy Cosonas, is a sheer drapery fabric decorated with a burning technique that sears a pattern into the fabric. The fabric is then overprinted with laser inks to create a mesh-like pattern. Air Rights, is available in eight combinations to use as drapes or relatively low-cost dividers.

At a glance
Expert opinion: San Francisco furniture designer Ted Boerner noticed a rise in the use of fabrics since the economy took a dive. "People seem to be upholstering old pieces and are using fabrics and linens rather than more expensive materials," he said.

More adventurous designers are using Imago by KnollTextiles, a fabric encapsulated in resin used for stiff screens and partitions. Air Rights, a polyester drapery made possible by Japanese laser technology, is also made by KnollTextiles. Air Rights, an overlapping double mesh pattern fabric created by Suzanne Tick, is laser burned (like faint brands on hides) and also laser printed with saturated inks. It is used for decorative scrims where privacy is not critical but visual separation is desired.

Air Rights' edges fray when cut but instead of heat-sealing them, KnollTextiles' creative director Dorothy Cosonas recommends finishing the edges with a hem.

These new fabrics can be complemented with creative contemporary designs such as Maharam textiles' Repeat Classic 462100 by designer Hella Jongerius. It has 123-inch-long repeat patterns of lines, birds and leaves that can be used to cover long banquettes. These 55-inch-wide fabrics are not sold in bolts but as panels.

Pros: "Imago is bulletproof in terms of maintenance," says architect Chris Von Eckartsberg of BCV Architects, who designed Imago light shades and two floating back bar bottle boxes at Press Club in San Francisco. Imago is used a lot in health care facilities because "it really can be wiped down with a wet rag," he added.

Imago captures many visual aspects of glass, but is half its weight. It is made through a patented process in which fabric is encapsulated in a high-performance polyethylene terephthalate glycol-modified (PETG) resin. It can be fabricated easily using woodworking tools such as drills and saws; it can be die-cut too. Imago can be bent or formed under moderate heat to create both soft curves and hard angles without cracking or whitening. It will not shatter and is resistant to scratching and fingerprints according to KnollTextiles. Although Imago is resistant to sun exposure, enhanced UV finishes protect it from direct-sun exposure.

Imago comes in 4-foot-by-8-foot sheets, available in several colors and custom designs (even in a corrugated form), and in six thicknesses, ranging from 1/16 inch to 1/2 inch.

Imago is also available with 40 percent post-industrial recycled PETG as a custom option that can contribute to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for recycled content, regional materials and improved indoor air quality.

Air Rights polyester fabric, produced with a burn-and-print technique, is one of the newest fabrics from KnollTextiles. It is good for the home but also has the fire retardant qualities required for commercial spaces.

Maharam Repeat Classics fabric panels, 123 inches long and 55 inches wide, are ideal for upholstering very long banquettes.

Cons: Because it is so lightweight, Air Rights is hard to encapsulate in resin to make a custom Imago panel. "If it gets skewed, you can't correct it," KnollTextiles' Cosonas says. That's why, manufacturing it will take longer. Since Imago is 100 percent polyester it is not environmentally correct. Although Air Rights is an inherently fire-retardant fabric appropriate for commercial spaces, it cannot fully replicate the look of genuine silk or cotton typically used in homes.

Source: SFGate.comAuthor: shangyi

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