Eileen Gray is known for her more contemporary designs for furniture until it comes to the canoe sofa.
She was born Aug 9 1878. in Enniscorthy, Ireland. Gray had studied as a painter until she came across Seizo Sugawara a Japanese furniture maker who specialized in lacquer work. From working with Sugawara, there Gray had taken a huge interest in this field of lacquer, and started to work with that material. With this technique in mind she made the Canoe Sofa, an element in the design for Suzanne Talbot’s apartment. The piece consists of lacquered wood, silver leaf and upholstery formed into the shape of a canoe that is found in many Polynesian designs. Her take on this sofa has an organic flow to its legs that could symbolize water with which a canoe needs to be successful. This is unlike her previous works’ influences, which were much more in the contemporary opinion of the time such as her Bibendum chair. This chair is much closer to the popular Bahuaus or Le Corbuisier which she was acquainted with.
In the design of the canoe sofa other techniques were introduced, away from her regular designs, which led to my conclusion that the sofa was specially designed for her client. With that in mind it shows the commitment and flexibility in her love for taking on challenges.
Compared to Joseph Maria Olbrich's Mantel Clock around the same time period, similar features take place. More curves are used in both designs and the sculpting of wood gave the natural aesthetic.
However, the canoe sofa is something removed from her personal style that I prefer. This assignment for Talbots apartment, is not to my liking but I respect Gray as a designer for taking on the challenge. Design isn’t always a personal project and exterior elements outside of the designer opinions have to be accounted for.