Bernhardt Design will launch the CP Lounge by mid-century modern icon Charles Pollock at the London Design Festival 2012. "It starts as a thought, and then becomes an idea, something I might think about for years. When the time is right, I express it on paper, usually as a simple line in space. Finally it takes shape and becomes a product or sculpture," recalls Charles Pollock in describing the creative process that has served him well for seven decades.
This deliberate process of creation produced the iconic Pollock Chair. When it was released by Florence Knoll in 1965, the chair became the most successful office chair in history and a symbol of the modern office. Bernhardt Design will introduce the 82-year-old Pollock's first new product for an American company in 47 years. The CP Lounge Collection will launch globally during the London Design Festival in September.
"I've always been fascinated by Charles Pollock. He created such a significant product, yet very little has ever been published about him. Given our fascination with mid-century American designers, this lack of information seemed remarkable to me," commented Jerry Helling, President of Bernhardt Design. "When I started my search to find Charles, I simply wanted to meet him and hear his story. I didn't dream at the time that he would be willing and excited to design a new product after all these years."
After graduating from Pratt in the early 1950's, Pollock joined George Nelson's design studio. During his time with Nelson, he designed his first ground-breaking product, the Swag Leg Chair, based on an idea he had begun developing at Pratt. In 1960 Pollock created his first product for Knoll, the 657 Sling Chair. The 657 Chair subsequently became a mid-century collector's piece and is sold today by auction.
With the support of Florence Knoll, he devoted the next five years to developing the Pollock Chair. "I made the chair over and over and over again," says Pollock. "If Florence wanted to change it by 1/4", I would have to make a new chair by hand. It was very difficult, but Florence kept pushing us forward; she was wonderful; she made it happen." All the time and effort were rewarded when the Pollock Chair was introduced in 1965 to great acclaim and instant sales success.
In 1982, the Italian company Castelli introduced another breakthrough Pollock design in Europe. The Penelope Chair was one of the first passively ergonomic chairs produced with simple parts. Twenty years before mesh became an indispensable material in furniture, Pollock used it as the key component in the Penelope Chair.
In late 2010, a hand delivered letter of introduction from Helling encouraged Pollock to schedule a meeting. Surprisingly, their first meeting concluded with a plan to explore several design concepts for a new product. Pollock and Helling spent the next few months evaluating a number of ideas before selecting the CP Lounge as their first project together.
Pollock's approach in designing the CP Lounge was a departure from anything he had done previously. "At Pratt we were taught to sketch, model and build, and that has always been my discovery process," stated Pollock. "Sixty years later with this chair, I did my first production drawing and Bernhardt made the prototype." Even though the design process was a deviation for Pollock, the inspiration for the chair - an unbroken line in space - was very familiar. "Designing using a continuous line leads you in one direction: toward simplicity," maintains Pollock. "Your eyes follow the line around the perimeter of the chair and it appears to be floating in space; it is so simple."
Where Pollock used metal to trace the exterior shape of his chairs in the past, he turned to distinctive sewing techniques in the CP Lounge. "The large loop stitch, made of the same material as the chair, is more subtle and adds a new dimension," said Pollock. "It also brings a higher level of craftsmanship to the chair. It is a lot like an old Jaguar, the profile of frame makes it look racy and fast, but you look inside and you see hand-sewn leather and burl. The chair has speed and craft."
The CP Lounge is available in two distinctly different versions. The first, CP.1, features a large loop stitch around the perimeter of the chair. Individual hand-quilted panels of leather, suede or felt are used to upholster the seat and back. The second edition is the sleek and simple CP.2 which can be selected in the customer's own material or any Bernhardt fabric or leather. The upholstered body of both versions rests on a frame of polished stainless steel.