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Relief Chair

This is a chair. It was designed by Ben K. Mickus and manufactured by Sutherland Felt and fabricated by Fab-Rite and metal worker: Evan Eisman. It is dated 2008 and we acquired it in 2009. Its medium is wool felt, stainless steel. It is a part of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department.

Brooklyn-based Ben Mickus has kept the environment high on his agenda while creating thoughtful furniture designs. Mickus “typifies the up-and-coming generation of intelligent green designers who view their design and environmental responsibilities to be as natural as breathing.”[1]
The Relief chair is part of the Solid/Surface/Series collection, which includes several other pieces of furniture that experiment with combining an ancient material, felt, with modern technology. The chair's name reflects both the physical relief the user is meant to feel when sitting down and the appearance of a three-dimensional topographical plan. The composition juxtaposes weight and weightlessness in the combination of layered felt on stainless steel legs. The designer “[searches] for raw, industrial materials that can be transformed into evocative yet functional objects.”[2]
Mickus uses cutting and lamination to create his designs. Sheets of medium-density industrial wool felt, a renewable material, are water-jet cut to specific outlines, stacked, arranged to create a solid form, and laminated with a non-toxic, water-based glue to the stainless steel frame.
The very act of creating the actual seat from felt, rather than using petroleum-based foam- and fume-generating upholstery is also an environmental statement. According to Mickus, “these projects are also a study of what I can eliminate and replace with a design that uses one material—in this case, felt—for cushion, surface and pattern.”[3] Another Mickus design, Refill Pillow (a modular acoustic absorption system), uses leftover scraps from the Relief Chair as pellet fill—yet another considered step in his environmentally-conscious design process.
This proposed acquisition would support the museum’s commitment to environmentally sensitive and sustainable design.
[1] Huang Nickmatui, “Generation Green,” Home Concepts, May 2009.
[2] Jake Townsend, “’Fashioning Felt’: Furniture designers get crafty,” Los Angeles Times, March 11, 2009,
[3] Townsend, “’Fashioning Felt.’”

This object was donated by Ben K. Mickus. It is credited Gift of Ben K. Mickus.

Its dimensions are

H x W x D: 92.7 x 81.3 x 86.4 cm (36 1/2 x 32 x 34 in.)

Cite this object as

Relief Chair; Designed by Ben K. Mickus (American, b. 1979); Manufactured by Sutherland Felt; Fabricated by Fab-Rite; Metal Worker: Evan Eisman; USA; wool felt, stainless steel; H x W x D: 92.7 x 81.3 x 86.4 cm (36 1/2 x 32 x 34 in.); Gift of Ben K. Mickus; 2009-21-1

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Fashioning Felt.

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Relief Chair |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=10 June 2023 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>