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The wonder of resin

The wonder of resin

Easily cast, shaped and carved, resin is attracting more and more designers. Tom Morris finds the brightest and the best

Easily cast, shaped and carved, resin is attracting more and more designers. Tom Morris finds the brightest and the best

Tom Morris | June/July 2017

The most exciting thing is not knowing what the exact result will be,” says Andy Martin, an Australian product designer. “Until I polish the pieces they are lifeless and it’s difficult to know how light will refract and reflect.”

That’s because he works with resin. Traditional plant-based resins such as amber have long been prized for their translucent qualities. But Martin is among a growing number of designers using artificial materials like acrylic, epoxy and polyester – more often associated with industrial processes from paint manufacturing to construction – to similar effect. He first began working with it as a teenager to produce surfboards. Then, as an architecture student, he used it to make maquettes. More recently he discovered its virtues as a material for furniture. It can be easily cast, shaped and carved, and is more resilient and tactile than glass. “The chemically formed material has a very organic feel and is soft to the touch,” he says. Now he’s making tables that give off a luminous glow when light hits them.

Light fantastic

MAIN IMAGE A Block table by Andy Martin. ABOVE One of Saerom Yoon’s Crystal tables

Saerom Yoon, a Korean designer, is also attracted by the way resin interacts with light. He used to work exclusively with wood, but wanted to “make a shape that consisted only of colour, like a watercolour painting of the sky”. To make his Crystal tables he adds dye to transparent resin, creating soft, dusky tones. It allows him, he says, to “express what I want”. 

When molten, resin can take sinuous, sculptural forms. Dinosaur Designs, an Australian brand, makes chokers decorated with tentacles that look like coral, and bowls with the soft, swirling appearance of gelato. Zuza Mengham, a British designer who won an award at this year’s Maison & Objet, a design fair in Paris, has also employed resin’s viscosity. In her ornamental pieces, collected under the unmemorable title ZMCLRBASTRT16, she mixes it with powdered slate to create a memorable effect like paint billowing in water. For her Camber collection, she inlays fragments of onyx for a terrazzo surface.

These designers are helping to buff resin’s reputation. More commonly used to caulk the hull of a boat, it is now just as likely to be found on deck in the form of an eye-catching coffee table.

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