Cate Le Bon Reimagined Her Latest Record as a Bauhaus-Inspired Chair

Published May 6, 2019

Photo by Ivana Kličković.

For the past decade, the musician Cate Le Bon has been on the road promoting her handcrafted songs, and wherever else she can, her bounty of handcrafted wares. Besides releasing four albums, and producing Deerhunter’s latest record, the Welsh musician spent the majority of 2017 in residence at a world-class furniture school, Waters & Acland in England, where she balanced her long days in the workshop with solitary nights at her piano. The result of that extracurricular music-making is her upcoming album, Reward, an introspective, surrealistic sonic diary, out this month on Brooklyn label Mexican Summer. This past April, the musician was named the official “Woodworker-in-Residence” at the Marfa Myths festival in Texas, where she re-imagined her new album as a Bauhaus-inspired chair. Fresh out of her desert residency, Le Bon walked Interview through the steps of constructing a chair for one to either admire or lean back on. It just might, if you follow her instructions closely, even be the ideal piece of furniture to take in a new piece of music. 

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Step 1: Define the Chair

“It truly depends on your definition of a chair, and whether or not you intend the chair to be functional or an ornament. It could be both. You have to make sure that the grain isn’t opposing on the joint lines. The last chair that I made in Marfa was really a series of panels that had been machined and fitted together. When you’ve got two flat panels meeting each other, there has to be absolutely no gap, no deviation from square. At the school I went to, they’re so militant on all of that stuff. Pretty soon, a millimeter becomes a canyon. It’s  always about working towards that absolutely precise finish.”

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Step 2: Find Character in the Grain

“Once you’ve made all the workshop designs and all of the dimensions are correct, take a trip to the timber yard to go source the wood for your chair. That can mean a whole day spent sifting through different sheets of wood. You pull whole trees that are cut into slices, and you sift through them to find the wood you desire, depending on the grain and any kind of character.”

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Step 3: Shape the Wood, Precisely

 “Machining the wood is a lengthy process, but it ensures that your pieces are stable and flat-sided. Here you slowly shape the wood to become a design. Make sure the panels that you’re creating are very precise, that they’re completely square, and there’s absolutely no discrepancy between the corresponding components.”

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Step 4: Assemble Your Insane Jigsaw Puzzle

“Finishing the piece is the lengthiest process of sanding and oiling, or staining. There’s a very strict order of process that needs to be worked out after you’ve designed the chair. The most difficult part, for me, is settling on an order of process. It’s an insane jigsaw puzzle.”