max lamb's china granite seating project
max lamb's china granite seating project max lamb's china granite seating project
sep 16, 2009

max lamb's china granite seating project

max lamb’s china granite seating project quarry near pai fang village where lamb was able to roam around freely to select granite




designer max lamb‘s china granite project materialized during a two-week residency programme organized by the chinese international gallery exposition (CIGE) and alexander von vegesack of the vitra design museum, as an artistic response to chinese culture and industry. granite can vary in color from whites, pinks, blues and greens through to dense black depending upon localized geochemistry and mineralogy. from one quarry in pai fang village china, lamb collected boulders of emerald green and jet-black granite to develop his china granite project. he worked closely with a small stone yard called an li stone in chengnanzhuang, hebei province, located 350 km southwest of beijing. through plenty of sign language and sketches directly on the surfaces of each boulder, lamb, with the help of the nephew of ling hejun, who is the owner of an li stone (and who could speak some english), was able to realize a collection of furniture pieces in chinese granite.

max lamb china granite project designboom a view of the surrounding landscape



on his first day at an li’s local quarry in nearby pai fang village, lamb was able to roam around freely to select pieces of granite he felt were suitable. he found a number of irregularly shaped, but rounded pieces that had been pushed over the peak from the quarry on the other side of the mountain. this mass of quarry stones, was too small for use as dimension stone, and is often ignored by the stone-yards who require large squared blocks of granite which have a consistent grain and structure. getting right into the process, using a steel bar, lamb was able to reach the boulders below, collecting a group of almost 20 granite pieces. his intentions were not to use all of the stones, but because it is a natural material, the granite was bound to occasionally reveal cracks or imperfections which would make them unusable. after, the selected stones were transferred back to the an li stone yard.

max lamb china granite project designboom an li stone yard in chengnanzhuang, china

transferring the boulders to the flat bed truck

driving selected boulders back to the stone yard

a stone ready to be cut




to develop the forms of each piece, lamb sketched onto their surfaces with wax crayon, responding to the natural contours and inherent characteristics of each stone. each piece of granite suggests a different application of cuts to give function to an otherwise redundant boulder. once the guidelines were drawn on each, they were lifted onto the saw platform using rubber straps with a steel bar, supposedly reclaimed and improvised from old engines, and larger boulders aided with steal cable and an overhead beam winch. steel pegs were driven into wooden beams around the edge of the boulder to hold it into place, and wooden wedges aided in holding boulders in place to prevent wobbling during the cutting process. the lady, who also happened to cook all the meals for the stone yard, was the one who also had to be the saw operator. the process of cutting the granite saw the blade move slowly towards the stone, cutting approximately one inch of granite, and once it cleared through the opposite side the blade was lowered another inch and traversed back through the stone. without a flat surface or square edge in which to accurately align the boulders to the crayon lines, and cutting at a specific angle greater than 90 degrees was a bit of an impossible task.

the 2.5 m diameter diamond saw blade

cut lines are marked out with wax crayon by lamb

the saw blade was operated by the same woman who cooked meals for the entire yard

much measuring was done before cutting to ensure precision

polishing the cut surfaces to reveal the crystalline structure of the granite

workers testing out the cut boulders

lamb’s rough sketches of cut angles

steel pegs were driven into wooden beams around the edge of the boulder to hold the stone in place

detail of the granite rock

the finished pieces include stools and tables which highlight the natural characteristics of granite



the collection of furniture includes a concave-cut boulder chair in chinese green and black granite, a natural split quarter table, a twin table and a selection of stools and tables. the boulders were selected for their natural characteristics, generated through millions of years of geothermal activity and revealed during the quarrying process. a minimal amount of cutting was performed on each rock to achieve the desired appearance and function. to give contrast to the rough exterior of the boulders and to reveal the crystalline structure of the granite, each of the cut surfaces were polished graded diamond pads and water. because of granite’s hardness, it does not achieve a polish until 3000 grit sanding disks are used. however, once polished, the surfaces of the granite achieved a mirror-like quality and the true color and grain of the minerals within the stone was revealed.’my project with pai fang quarry and an li stone resulted in a mutual exchange of discovery, laughter and smiles, and a collection of 19 furniture pieces. they are to be seen as boulders of natural granite, and used as furniture.’ – ML

the rough exterior of the boulders contrast with the cut polished surfaces of the finished pieces


the project will be on show at 20 hoxton square, london from september 18th to 27th, 2009.

  • i really like this project, look forward to seeing the pieces at the exhibition

    tanya telford says:

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