How Studio Ilio is challenging conventional material formats and manufacturing processes
By Purva Chawla
How can a web of fragile metal wire turn into an elegant, solid white structure, robust enough to serve as a stool?
Can steel be reprogrammed, almost, to behave like textile? Molded to be a hard and soft material, all at once?
These questions and their answers have been at the core of London-based Studio Ilio's work so far.
Studio Ilio was formed by fellow Royal College of Art alums Seongil Choi and Fabio Hendry. Through experimentation and investigation in their studio, their work has challenged conventional manufacturing processes and material uses.
Among Studio Ilio's prominent works are Hot Wire Extensions (seen above) and The Soft side of Steel. These two projects consist of a growing collection of objects that serve as furniture, sculpture or installations. More importantly, they each represent innovative, new ways of casting and formatting materials like steel, wire, waste nylon powder and more.
The two series of works are much more than static outcomes, rather, what Studio Ilio has generated with them, is a new language for familiar materials, some of which are rapidly accumulating as wastes from modern manufacturing processes.
Vital to the success of these experiments has been Studio Ilio's collaboration with manufacturers from unexpected and diverse industries. Not only has this created unique and specialized outcomes, but has, to our mind, widened the reach of the fabrication techniques they have personally developed.
This week, Studio Ilio joined the Form&Seek collective in displaying a set of stools from their Hot Wire Extensions series, at the London Design Festival of 2016. We spoke with Fabio and Seongil recently, to learn more about their fascinating projects, their presence at the LDF, and
what is next for them.
MD: Seongil and Fabio, tell us how your partnership and the first experiments for 'Hot Wire Extensions' began?
Fabio: Seongil and I met during our time studying at the Royal College of Art. We were both given a brief to create a stool. Now this is a brief that we had both seen many times during our design training. We both wanted to create something different this time. We had the idea of using heat, and its transformative power, and also Nichrome wire.
At the RCA, and beyond, we experimented for nearly two years, working with wax, water, and shredded plastic. None of these materials gave us the outcome we wanted, even though plastic felt like it had the most potential. We began using a combination of sand and powdered plastic granules–a mixture we saw being used at aluminum casting plants.
It was then that we made contact with a few 3D Printing companies. We learned that the biggest waste stream from SLS 3D printing is Nylon powder. As the future of 3D printing magnifies, this waste will continue to accumulate. We decided to use a combination of the Nylon waste powder and sand and used it to create a series of stools, lights, and miscellaneous objects.
For now, our work with Hot Wire Extensions has revolved around furniture, but we want to scale this up vastly and see how it can respond to the needs of our society.
MD: For the project, 'The Soft Side of Steel', what were your motivations?
Seongil: We looked around London, where we live and work, and saw how filled the city is with borders made of steel. Fences, boundaries, they all show the harsh side of steel. We asked ourselves: What if we could make steel soft?
For this project, we worked with two manufacturers, one of welding machines and the other felt-fabric– Sciaky Electric Welding Machines Ltd. and The Woolly Shepherd Ltd– both companies that were familiar with large scale production. We first created flexible sheets from steel fibers, using felting methods and machinery.
Next, we tapped into the welding processes– we saw that the flexible textile could be hardened in defined areas through seam welding to create structure, offering a unique quality to this material.
Through this exploration, steel could be seen as soft and warm, and it could be welded to more familiar forms of steel that are cold and hard. We saw that through adopting traditional welding techniques, objects could be created entirely through the same material, displaying different performances according to where it is utilized.
The set of products we made included stools, vases, and containers. We hope to explore the potential of these formats and combinations of steel in much larger applications in the future.
MD: What has Studio Ilio lined up for the London Design Festival, alongside Form&Seek, and what is next for you?
Fabio: Earlier, we had created a selection of 12 plain white stools for the Hot Wire Extensions series. For the LDF, we have made three new stools, and also introduced color to the making process. It is our way of bringing playfulness to these ever-growing and changing set of works.
Seongil: We are excited and honored to showcase our work with Form&Seek at London this week! After London, we will begin working towards our participation in the Zurich Biennale of 2017. We are among a few studios invited to showcase our work, which will center around working with Switzerland's waste. It is likely that we will be exhibiting at, and conducting workshops at a recycling plant in Zurich. This will be our largest commissioned project yet, and we are extremely excited for it.
MD: Fabio and Seongil, we wish you the very best for the LDF, and the coming year and it’s exciting developments for you. Thank you so much for sharing your work and story with us.