Having had the good fortune of being born to Emmy van Leersum and Gijs Bakker — renowned Dutch jewelry designers, the latter a co-founder of Droog — Aldo Bakker was only 16 when he began learning how to ply his parents’ trade by shadowing the interns at his father’s home studio. but while he spent the next decade and a half dutifully mastering the art of metalworking, Bakker felt pangs of rebellion early on: He had fallen in love with wood. “Metal’s cold, it’s hard, it smells in a way I don’t like,” says Bakker, now 39. “Whereas wood feels warm and comfortable to me, so I always longed to work with it.” While he kicked off a breakout year at last April’s Milan Furniture Fair with a copper tableware series for Thomas Eyck, Bakker has been gearing up since 2007 for a long-term investigation into the possibilities of wood furniture, and its first fruits debuted last month at Object Rotterdam.
Shown there in conjunction with wood-focused work by three other designers — the latest collection from the Amsterdam-based pop-up gallery Particles— Bakker’s initial offering takes the form of a handcrafted tripod chair and an untreated version of the glossy mushroom-shaped stool he previewed in 2010. The chair, called 3dwn1up, is a departure from the organic sculptural style he’s become known for; its design was driven by the physics of providing stability and comfort to a seat whose fourth leg appears to have waywardly migrated upwards, transforming into a backrest. “It was about simplifying wood, removing all the noise to make it light and approachable,” he says.
When Particles brings the show to Milan next month, Bakker will have added to the lineup a table and an ultrathin bench with wide support struts, and as the project unfolds in the coming years, he’ll attempt to find novel ways of addressing a range of wood properties and techniques: “Coating, lines, joinery, shaping, parts, puzzeling, stacking, aging — each will become a different chapter,” he says. “There’s also the burning of wood and the effect you see when rainwater turns wood’s color into a gradient of grays. I want to use those elements in a conscious way.” It’s that analytical approach that drew particles founder Wilpert Dreesman to Bakker’s work in the first place: “Aldo’s not into Dutch design gimmicks,” Dreesman says. “He really starts from scratch, rethinking the basics in a fresh way.”