The Punch'n'Cuddle story starts in 2007, when Brit Leissler began to explore the question of emotional design and design value in general. What direct needs could be addressed by furniture, other than the usual ones of storage or rest? She came up with the idea of »emotional furniture« - as the name suggests, furniture pieces that would address emotional needs and work as tools to achieve emotional balance for the user.
She presented the first Punch'n'Cuddle prototypes as part of her »Happy Triggers« MA thesis project at the Royal College of Art. In the following two years Brit was busy establishing her London based design studio, so these prototypes were just collecting dust - before she eventually teamed up with business investor Johann Franke in 2009. Together they entered the next stage: to turn PnC into a feasible product, that could be produced on a large scale at affordable prices - without compromising on their strict quality and ethical standards.
Almost three years later, Punch'n'Cuddle was ready to roll and finally opened its virtual doors to its online shop in December 2011. For any designer this is a long journey with many ups and downs - for conceptual design is easy, however, realising a fully functioning and manufacturable product is always a test, as the »real« work only starts when the prototype is completed. Creating a whole production & distribution infrastructure from scratch is certainly a complex undertaking - particularly when working with various suppliers in different countries.
Material & Production
Whereas the very first Punch'n'Cuddle prototype featured a fibreglass base, the subsequent second prototype was made with a stack laminated multiplex-wooden base. The idea was to apply the tactility of furniture, so using the warm, natural material of wood made a lot more sense than the rather unpleasant to work with and ecologically nasty fiberglass. This second prototype looked very much like the one now being offered in the shop - but only superficially.
Because even though the stack laminated multiplex-wooden base worked very well in terms of aesthetics and function, it would be very expensive to produce, and therefore make Punch'n'Cuddle a very exclusive object. This however would compromise its ability to complete its mission - which is to deliver its emotional balancing powers to as many people as possible. Or simply put: world domination in a loving & lovable way.
Finding a replacement material that would still have the same tactile characteristics as wood, but at the same time be simpler and more economic to process, took quite a bit of research and exploration into the world of liquid wood - a moldable but bio-degradable wood pulp-based lignin that can be mixed with a number of other materials to create a strong, non-toxic alternative to petroleum-based plastics.
But in the end it seemed that the technique of coiled bamboo was the one that ticked most boxes. Even though that it meant that the bases had to be produced rather far away: in Vietnam - the place from where this fascinating technique of bamboo forming originally derived. So Brit and Johann went off to Vietnam, with the mission to build the crate for the production of Punch'n'Cuddle's semispherical base - and thereby (quite literally) give it some legs.
In the next couple of days here will be a thorough description of how exactly this way of bamboo processing works, illustrated with pictures from the Punch'n'Cuddle manufacturing site.