I met with London based Upcycler Yinka Ilori in Stockholm just days before the opening of his Solo Exhibition at Gallery Just Africa. We met at a café on the trendy streets of the town, Yinka first just wanted hot chocolate with cream but later also had a cookie.
Yinka and I have two things in common, our love for chairs and our love for storytelling. That made him an upcycler of chairs and me a writer about upcycled chairs. Almost everyone that I have met involved in Upcycling mention the stories inherited in the preloved objects that they are working with. Yinka Ilori takes this one step further as each chair that he brings back to life is also given its own parable.
Yinka gives me an example of a parable that he used ‘Stones should not be thrown at a bird that wants to fly away’. I shake my head and say that I do not understand, we shall never throw stones at birds shall we? Yinka also shakes his head and laugh, and silently I hope he understands what I mean and dont think I am stupid. Later that weekend at the opening of the exhibition I do however grasp the Nigerian parable as I am exposed to quite a few of them. My favorite goes like this ‘A head destined to be a king, cannot but be crowned’.
What comes first, the chair or the parable? Do you have a parable and look for a chair that resemble the parable, or does a chair make you think of a certain parable? Some chairs have more character than others. I often think ‘that is a chair that I can relove, but that chair I can not relove’.
We then move on to examine a chair at the coffee house and Yinka explain to me how he would recreate it. It is one characteristic chair and we both get a little excited and forgot about the parable question.
Yinka often use relove to describe his design process instead of Upcycling even though the exhibition is promoted as Upcycling Design and he does use that too.
London have many known upcyclers and I ask about the climate there, and Yinka reveal that London based designer Martino Gamper and his classic ‘100 chairs in 100 days‘ have been a tremendous inspiration. – Martino Gamper once said that there is no such thing as a perfect chair. I find that very inspiring, Yinka explains and I nod my head.
I wanted to ask Yinka if he ever gets tired of chairs, but before I even get the opportunity he confess to me that he is ‘a little’ tired of chairs, and that we can look forward to side tables and maybe stools signed Yinks Design rather soon.
– This exhibition (‘because the truth is bitter’) will be different from everything I have done so far. I feel the need to do something different, I want to surprise!
I wonder why it is so important to surprise, could it be that maybe he reached perfection after all. The perfect imperfect Yinka Ilori signature chair. The question was never asked, instead Yinka look around at the buildings outside and finally say -You have such a great way of combining colours here, I have definitely found inspiraton from that and will take it with me home.
On my journey back home I complicate if that means we get to see Yinka Ilori chairs with a scandinavian palette in the future. Turned out I did not have to wait that long. The chairs exhibited at Just Africa and made in Stockholm from found chairs in Stockholm do have a certain Scandinavian aura to them, with less color then usual in Yinkas work, and with more earthy tones. A Scandinavian story.
++ Yinka Ilori