Creating a furniture icon, such as the Danish designer Arne Jacobsen's famous, curvaceous Egg Chair, takes a creative spark. But the craftsmanship required to keep such a tricky design in circulation requires repetition and dedication. In the case of long-time master upholsterer Hans Mannerhagen, who still hand-stitches these modern takes on the traditional wing chair for the Republic of Fritz Hansen, each piece may require days of work and up to 1,200 stitches.
"It's not easy to say how many hour or minutes I need for an Egg Chair," he says. "It all depends on the type of material. Leather can take much longer to upholster versus fabric. I average 2-3 chairs a week."
To celebrate the 60th anniversary of Arne Jacobsen's iconic designs, including the Series 7 and the Egg Chair, Fritz Hansen and Design Within Reach are releasing a new version of the later, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, upholstered in Basel fabrics from Kvadrat and finished with Sørensen leather piping and matching lacquered bases. Beginning today in Miami, Mannerhagen will also be touring the country as part of a series of events at DWR Studios dedicated to Jacobsen, and will finish an Egg Chair at every stop. Curbed spoke with Mannerhagen to learn more about the craftsmanship behind each chair.
In 1998, Mannerhagen was a 20-year-old teacher and freelance artist specializing in hand weaving . After making a move to Copenhagen to "see the big city," he joined Fritz Hansen and gradually took over the manufacturing of the Egg Chair. Outside of tanning the leather that's occasionally used in place of fabric, Mannerhagen does everything: cutting, sewing, stretching the leather or fabric, pinning and completing the chairs. The entire process requires nothing more than his hands, a needle, thread and a staple gun (as well as a few leather rings that protect his hands from cuts and pin pricks during production).
"Every chair is unique," says Mannerhagen, who has three in his own home. "Maybe only I can see it because I work on each piece personally."
Arne Jacobsen designed the Egg Chair in 1958 for the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, instantly creating what would become an icon of comfortable Danish Modernism (and the inspiration for countless copies and knockoffs). Mannerhagen never had the opportunity to meet Jacobsen, but can take pride in being part of the legacy of a design classic.