Reinventing the Discarded – Karen Ryan

02 Aug

“Body” Chair

Yesterday I posted about a hotel which show cases (as part of it’s luxury element), through the concept of it’s interior designer Rabi Hagh, new and old designers along side each other.  Many of the designers showcased in the hotel are also part of the exhibitions in the Rabih Hagh Gallery in the UK.

One of the designers exhibited is Karen Ryan  who graduated in Design Products from the Royal College of Art in 2001. Karen considers herself a “design agitator” with the purpose of producing the unique from the mundane.

“She scavenges around Portsmouth to find the raw material for her furniture which she reinvents through colour and juxtapositions to create something bold and new.”


Karen Ryan – Source

“i love chairs.
i hate gluttony.
i am a misfit and my custom made furniture is constructed using misfits of chairs and tables discarded or no longer valued.
i make a different sense out of what is a senseless waste.
i invent a reality that i wish to live in where the ugly and unwanted are valued.
my autobiography is inseparable from my creative practice.
fate dictates the form of my raw materials, assisted by my perpetual scavenging.
the construction technique is more of a construction ethos, purposely adopting a naive approach.
every custom made piece is unique.
every custom made piece contains traces of their past.”

Care for chairs……..

Karen’s work is very diverse, but her love of chairs is very prominent in her work.  From the plastic of an old school hall chair to the leather of a worn out armchair,  her imagination definitely takes a hold to transform the mundane.

Portrait Chair


Much of her work is focused around a message regarding western consumerism and the very shallow messages that it creates, as such she tries to ensure that each piece shows her individuality. I will direct you to her website for her individual summaries on the meanings behind each piece (I always worry I will misinterpret!).  Rather I will leave you with some of her pieces which I love and have filed away in my inspiration box!
Below are a number of chairs from the “Custom Made ” collection…perhaps more unconventional than functional, but definitely a conversation stopper.

Second Hand……

One of Ryan’s other collections is called “second had” and comprises of plates and vases that have been discarded and, as Ryan puts is…
“I damage imperfect unwanted old plates.
I remove the decorative patterns that camouflage our everyday lives and in its place I leave words that prick our conscience and create portraits of hidden domestics left open for others to interpret.”
So on that note I will leave it up to you to interpret….. and I would be very interested to hear what you think!

Posted by on August 2, 2012 in Art, Travel, UK, UK designers, Uncategorized


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6 responses to “Reinventing the Discarded – Karen Ryan

  1. This Sydney Life

    August 2, 2012 at 9:04 am

    BCD – where’s the blog post explaining how Karen does that with the ceramics. How amazing. Oh – and dibs on the yellow chair (despite not having a clue where to put it!)

    • birdcagedesign

      August 2, 2012 at 11:44 am

      I know, I need to investigate that, it is amazing. Must be some powerful bleach!!! I thought you might like the chair, You may be able to put it at the end of your new bed!

  2. elisaruland

    August 2, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    If you can figure out how the “stenciling” was done on the ceramics, let me know – I have a stack of old Blue Willow plates I’d like to experiment with! It almost looks like they sandblasted them…

    • birdcagedesign

      August 2, 2012 at 3:38 pm

      I think that maybe the sand blast or something similar would be close to the mark as the letters are raised… but I could be way off the mark…. I know if I tried to sand blast I would probably end up with the starts of a mosaic when it explodes on me! 🙂

  3. EverydaySparks

    August 2, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    Love those chairs, BCD. If I lost the battle with TSL for the yellow one, I’d go for the fancy red & black one. And that plate idea is genius! 🙂

    • birdcagedesign

      August 3, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      I love those plates too! Maybe you could work out some form of custody arrangement with TSL in relation to the chair! 😉


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