Rado, the Swiss watchmaker, has served as the official partners of NYCxDESIGN and WantedDesign since 2016. In 2018, Rado launched their third U.S. edition of the Rado Star Prize, which is held internationally to promote the work of young designers. This year, the Rado Star Prize was focused on the concept of “Design Inspired by Nature,” a theme that hopes to explore the influence nature can have on design.
At the opening of WantedDesign Manhattan on May 18, 2018, Rado’s VP of Marketing, Andrea Caputo, presented Susannah Weaver with the Jury Prize for Felted Concrete, her nature-inspired exploration of materials. Learn more about Susannah and Felted Concrete.
What is your education background?
I graduated this year from Parsons School of Design with a BFA in Product Design. My focus in Product Design is material research, and also user experience. When I first came to New York to study at Parsons, I wanted to learn about sustainability and as I went through the Product Design curriculum, I learned that most of the challenges actually lie in human behavior, and many opportunities are within material development and innovation.
What is the story behind the prototype you presented for the Rado Star Prize?
When I first began this project, I was inspired by Rado’s mastering of unique materials in their watches and I wanted to create a material for furniture completely new and unexplored. I was really interested in raw wool as a material because of the natural properties it possesses, like water wicking, fire and mildew resistance, and durability. I first began experimenting with different crafts that use wool – especially knitting and felting. Those initial tests didn’t resemble the raw material enough for me – I missed the nuanced textures and forms that come with unprocessed wool so I went back to the original material to figure out a way to capture its natural properties. This led me to casting it in concrete.
The form also comes from wanting to preserve the natural qualities of concrete. The final seat references cinder blocks, which helped to make the design modular through 4 separate pieces. This form highlights the contrast between a very natural material with a man-made material, and ultimately the relationship formed between the two. With the raw wool pouring out from the cracks in the concrete, my hope is that it is immediately obvious what the seat is made of, but still visually unexpected.
Do you plan to develop the project and do you have any manufacturer in mind that could be interested by this product?
This project is heavily influenced by hand-crafted processes and as such it is best suited for small batch production and especially unique one-of-a-kind pieces. Different sheep produce different qualities of wool; each type reacting differently to the concrete. My next interest is to develop unique home goods and further push the properties of this material, both visually and functionally.
What is your dream career?
My dream career is to work at the intersection of design and science with an emphasis on climate change solutions. More specifically, I want to be a design consultant with a specialty in materials and user experience. I also hope to continue my own creative practice, especially making jewelry and home goods.
Who are the designers and companies that inspire you?
I am inspired by Suzanne Lee, Barbra Kruger, Rick Owens, and Louise Bourgeois. Rado is a company that inspires me because of their innovative approach to unique materials.