an HON­EST MA­TE­RIAL

Abie Ab­dil­lah

Prestige Indonesia - Lifestyle - - CONTENTS - CINDY JU­LIA TOBING re­ports

“Rat­tan fur­ni­ture has al­ways been con­sid­ered cheap and of low qual­ity, but that’s not al­ways true,” de­clares Abie Ab­dil­lah, founder and Prin­ci­pal De­signer of Stu­dio Hiji. “It con­cerns me that even though we have the crafts­man­ship in In­done­sia to make beau­ti­ful pieces with it, rat­tan does not re­ceive the ac­knowl­edge­ment it de­serves.”

Ab­dil­lah, aged 31, has made it his life mis­sion to sup­port a tra­di­tional In­done­sian in­dus­try by us­ing rat­tan to cre­ate edgy con­tem­po­rary fur­ni­ture. “Rat­tan is an hon­est ma­te­rial,” he de­clares. “It takes any de­sired shape. There are just so many things you can do with it. It’s also highly sus­tain­able. It grows faster than other trees.”

It was while study­ing In­dus­trial De­sign at Ban­dung In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy (ITB) that Ab­dil­lah dis­cov­ered his in­ter­est in fur­ni­ture – and rat­tan. “I dis­cov­ered that In­done­sia pro­vides roughly 80 per­cent of the world’s rat­tan sup­ply,” he re­calls. At the same time, he no­ticed a lack of high-qual­ity fur­ni­ture made of rat­tan that went

back for decades. In spite of its ne­glect, he saw rat­tan’s pos­si­bil­i­ties as an op­por­tu­nity to use his de­sign skills to “tell sto­ries about In­done­sia”.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing in 2009, Ab­dil­lah worked for fur­ni­ture man­u­fac­turer Cham­dani for a year and a half. Next, he joined Zylia De­sign Stu­dio, where he worked for Joshua Si­mand­jun­tak, a grad­u­ate of the Royal Col­lege of Art in Lon­don who works with carvers from Jepara in Cen­tral Java to pre­serve cen­tury-old tech­niques. Ab­dil­lah es­tab­lished Stu­dio Hiji in 2014. He part­ners with Sin­ga­pore’s For The Com­mon Goods, whose “de­sire is to bring fur­ni­ture that is thought­fully de­signed and sus­tain­ably pro­duced closer to the com­mon folk, en­abling a bet­ter ap­pre­ci­a­tion of good prod­uct de­sign and crafts­man­ship”.

Be­fore open­ing his own stu­dio, Ab­dil­lah had al­ready gar­nered at­ten­tion in the de­sign com­mu­nity. His Pret­zel Chair was given an hon­ourable men­tion at the Sin­ga­pore Fur­ni­ture De­sign Awards in 2011 and was named “Most In­spir­ing Fur­ni­ture De­sign” in the An­nual De­sign Awards of Skala+ mag­a­zine. “This was a step­ping stone for me. It made me be­lieve I was on the right track,” says the de­signer.

Ab­dil­lah’s rat­tan de­signs con­tin­ued to gain in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion, which gave Stu­dio Hiji a huge ex­po­sure at the de­sign scene. An­other of his de­signs, the Lukis Chair, was se­lected by Cap­pellini, a top Ital­ian brand, as part of its fur­ni­ture col­lec­tion for 2016. This has put the de­signer in good com­pany. Cap­pellini’s world­class tal­ents in­clude Alessan­dro Men­dini, Piero Lis­soni and Tom Dixon.

“Lukis arm­chair signed by In­done­sian Abie Ab­dil­lah is an en­counter be­tween the cen­turies-old tra­di­tion of rat­tan pro­cess­ing and con­tem­po­rary de­sign,” says Cap­pellini on its web­site. “A new per­spec­tive on the hand­i­craft cul­ture from South­east Asia that is show­ing signs of a re­newed en­vi­ron­men­tal aware­ness. As a mat­ter of fact, rat­tan can be har­vested in a sus­tain­able man­ner due to its rapid growth, all its parts can be utilised and the steam-bend­ing process makes pro­duc­tion en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly.”

Says Ab­dil­lah of his col­lab­o­ra­tion with Cap­pellini: “This is one of the most im­por­tant achieve­ments of my ca­reer. In­done­sian rat­tan is now re­garded as a world-class ma­te­rial.” His Doeloe Lounge Chair, mean­while, was se­lected for La Tri­en­nale di Milano. Ab­dil­lah was the only South­east Asian de­signer to be fea­tured at the ex­hi­bi­tion.

This year, Ab­dil­lah was in­vited for the sec­ond time to show­case some of his work at Salone del Mo­bile Milano, as part of the In­done­sian Pavil­ion. “We show­cased three pieces for dif­fer­ent brands,” says the de­signer. “It was in­ter­est­ing be­cause even though the team and I worked with three dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als and styles, we were still able to achieve the de­sired qual­ity. The suc­cess­ful de­signs were the Loop Lounge Chair from Stu­dio Hiji’s own col­lec­tion; the Benoa Chair, cre­ated in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Karsa; and the Cielo Arm Chair, de­signed in part­ner­ship with Vi­vere.

Go­ing for­ward, Ab­dil­lah is con­fi­dent that rat­tan will be­come much more than one of In­done­sia’s hid­den trea­sures. “We aim to bring a pos­i­tive im­pact to the in­dus­try and the work­ers, and to pre­serve rat­tan for the re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion of the coun­try’s forests,” says the de­signer. “In ad­di­tion, we hope to in­volve our­selves in rat­tan plan­ta­tions as well. It’s all baby steps at this stage, but we are op­ti­mistic about the path we are on.”

“Rat­tan is an hon­est ma­te­rial. It takes any de­sired shape. There’s just so many things you could do with it”

clock­wise from above: LOOP LOUNGE CHAIR; ABIE AB­DIL­LAH; DANO TRI­POD STOOL

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