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From Java, by Way of Oakland: Rattan Chairs from Wend Studio

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From Java, by Way of Oakland: Rattan Chairs from Wend Studio

April 11, 2018

Oakland, California, designers Michelle Plante and Genevieve Bandrowski launched their furniture line, Wend, after designing a chair for a French hotel for a project. The duo—who had been collaborating as an interior designer and a stylist, respectively—began researching materials to produce the chair and settled on rattan, which they loved for its flexibility and low eco-impact. “It’s been a process of love, sweat, and tears ever since,” says Bandrowski.

“We aim to offer a line of home furnishings that have the highest level of social and environmental commitment available, without sacrificing aesthetics,” they say.

They source their rattan from Indonesian rain forests, and from there it’s sent to Java to be woven by hand. In Java, they say, sometimes “entire villages are devoted to working with rattan,” a centuries-old Indonesian tradition the designers are enthusiastic to support. Today they design Wend chairs in collaboration, drawing on furniture designs from the sixties and seventies to “marry this traditional Indonesian craft with a distinctly California aesthetic.” The result is a four-piece collection—three chairs and one settee, available in select California stores and online.

Photography courtesy of Wend Studio.

The Diamond Rattan Chair has an iron base and is inspired by European designs from the 60s. It&#8
Above: The Diamond Rattan Chair has an iron base and is inspired by European designs from the 1960s. It’s $330 at Forma Living.
Each Wend chair takes several days to make and is shaped and tied by hand in a fair-trade environment. Made in small batches, no two are exactly alike.

The matching Diamond Rattan Settee best showcases the diamond pattern created when strip rattan (the narrower pieces) is woven around pole rattan (the thicker ones). It&#8
Above: The matching Diamond Rattan Settee best showcases the diamond pattern created when strip rattan (the narrower pieces) is woven around pole rattan (the thicker ones). It’s $475 at Forma Living.
The rattan for Wend’s chairs is grown in Indonesian Borneo and on the island of Sulawesi, while each chair itself is made in Java.

The Ring Rattan Chair takes inspiration from French furniture styles of the 60s. It&#8
Above: The Ring Rattan Chair takes inspiration from French furniture styles of the 1960s. It’s $290 at Joinery.
Wend says that supporting the rattan industry helps to preserve Indonesian rain forests. Because the plant must climb rain forest trees in order to grow, local communities have an economic incentive to keep the rain forests intact. Rattan is also sustainable because it regrows quickly after harvest, from the same plant.

The elliptic Arc Rattan Rocker is inspired by 50s styles; it can function as a rocking chair if you lean back; $400 at LeMay Shop.
Above: The elliptic Arc Rattan Rocker is inspired by 1950s styles; it can function as a rocking chair if you lean back; $400 at LeMay Shop.
For the designers, part of the appeal of rattan is its its relatively low environmental impact: “Much of what people are currently producing in Indonesia requires cutting down rain forests and destroying the ecosystem,” says Plante. “Giving communities an alternative source of income that relies on the survival of forests, coupled with a craft that is a part of Indonesia’s traditional culture, made rattan a dream material.”

A detail of the twisted and woven back on the diamond settee.
Above: A detail of the twisted and woven back on the diamond settee.

Wend chairs are carried at select shops across the US and in Denmark. For more, visit a list of Stockists.

Wend chairs begin as rattan bundles, tied to hold a circular shape while they dry.
Above: Wend chairs begin as rattan bundles, tied to hold a circular shape while they dry.

Wend donates 10 percent of all proceeds to organizations that support positive global change. This year’s recipient is the Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project, which works to protect the rain forest home of the world’s largest orangutan population.

To mold the rattan further, the dried plant is heated, then bent, and again until the right shape is achieved.
Above: To mold the rattan further, the dried plant is heated, then bent, and again until the right shape is achieved.
Wend founders Michelle Plante and Genevieve Bandrowski.
Above: Wend founders Michelle Plante and Genevieve Bandrowski.

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