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2005/175/1 Dining setting, 'Stem', table and chairs (4), plastic / wood / metal / rubber / fabric, designed by Grant and Mary Featherston, made by Aristoc Industries, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1969. Click to enlarge.

‘Stem’ dining setting by Grant and Mary Featherston

Designed
One of the new wave of Australian designers to emerge in the immediate post-war years, Grant Featherston (1922-1995) designed his first chair in 1947. In the early 1950s he developed the now famous 'Contour' range of chairs. First launched in 1951, the 'Contour' was an immediate success, its innovative plywood shell formed using a process that Featherston developed himself in the absence of suitable plywood bending technology locally. In 1957 Featherston was appointed consultant designer to Aristoc Industries, a Melbourne manufacturer of metal furniture. This highly fruitful collaboration resulted in the production of a variety of chairs including the 'Mitzi' (1957), 'Scape' (1960), the 'Expo 67 talking chair' and the 'Stem' chair of 1969.

In 1966 Featherston formed a partnership with his wife Mary Featherston (nee Curry, born England 1943), an interior designer who had studied at RMIT. Their 'Expo 67' chair, with its polystyrene shell, was only the beginning of a run of chairs that, in the spirit of the times, explored the limitless possibilities of plastics in the creation of innovative seating forms:

' ... the integrated one-piece plastic chair [represented] ... the pinnacle of the furniture designer's aspirations. Plastics and moulding technology expresses the synergetic challenge most eloquently. No other material so inherently speaks of body and process, offering a 'negative' of the human body.'
(Grant Featherston, 'Design reflections', In Future, no 4, Feb-March 1987. Quoted in Terence Lane, Featherston Chairs, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1988, p12)

The rotation-moulded, polyethylene 'Stem' chair took 18 months to reach production stage and was one of the most technologically sophisticated chairs ever made in Australia. It, and other innovative designs by the Featherstons helped expand the technological capabilities of local furniture manufacturers at a time when there viability was constantly under threat from foreign imports.

The Featherstons' efforts to keep the local industry competitive while supplying the market with chairs that were technologically and stylistically equal to overseas examples resulted in an important body of work that has significantly enriched Australia's design history.

Anne Watson, Curator, 2005

Summary

Object No.

2005/175/1

Object Statement

Dining setting, 'Stem', table and chairs (4), plastic / wood / metal / rubber / fabric, designed by Grant and Mary Featherston, made by Aristoc Industries, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1969

Physical Description

Dining setting, 'Stem', table and chairs (4), plastic / wood / metal / rubber / fabric, designed by Grant and Mary Featherston, made by Aristoc Industries, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1969

Dining setting of one table and four chairs, the table with a circular top of wood covered in white plastic laminate supported on a metal pedestal column resting on a circular, white powder-coated metal base; the chairs of similar form with an angled, rotation-moulded white plastic seat and back in one unit and each with a circular drop-in cushion of foam rubber with original red wool upholstery, the seats moulded in one unit with the supporting tapering pedestal column resting on a white powder-coated circular metal base connected to the seat through the centre of the column.

Marks

Table with Aristoc label affixed to underside; chairs with 'Aristoc' stamped into metal plate on base of seat beneath cushions.

Production

Notes

Designed by Grant and Mary Featherston, Melbourne, 1968-69; made by Aristoc Industries, Melbourne, 1969. It should also be noted that T Lane identifies the makers of the 'Stem' chairs as 'Furniture Makers of Australia (formerly Aristoc Industries Pty Ltd) with the assistance of ACI Plastics' (Featherston Chairs, p 57). However, the museum's pieces bear Aristoc labels and stamps.

History

Notes

The 'Stem' chair was listed on the Australian Design Index and received a Good Design label from the Industrial Design Council of Australia in 1970.

Source

Credit Line

Purchased 2005

Acquisition Date

6 July 2005

Cite this Object

Harvard

'Stem' dining setting by Grant and Mary Featherston 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 30 October 2020, <https://ma.as/345955>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/345955 |title='Stem' dining setting by Grant and Mary Featherston |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=30 October 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

Incomplete

This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.