Interview: Chris Ferebee & the Hollow Table

August 28, 2015

Los Angeles Modern Auctions is pleased to present a rare and important prototype of designer Chris Ferebee’s 1999 Hollow Table in the upcoming October 11, 2015 Modern Art & Design auction. A multidisciplinary talent, Ferebee is a young star of both contemporary art and design. His furniture has been recognized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and exhibited in institutions such as the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York, as well as numerous galleries. He spoke with LAMA in August 2015 about his creative process, his definition of art, and the inspirational qualities of the thermos.

LAMA: You wear a lot of hats in addition to that of a furniture designer—visual artist, photographer, graphic designer, and musician. Do you drink a lot of coffee? Seriously, how does furniture design differ from other types of creative work?

Chris Ferebee: Ha-ha! Yeah, coffee definitely helps. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever really compartmentalized any of these endeavors or distinguished between them, creatively speaking. I don’t see designing furniture as any different. Whether it’s to solve a problem, or to communicate a message, tell a story, or to simply make something aesthetically pleasing, the same creative act and process can be applied to designing a table just as it can to writing a song or taking a photograph. Sometimes it’s a purely intuitive pursuit, other times it’s more of an analytical one.

LAMA: How do you begin a furniture design? Do you recognize a need and then work toward a product that fills it? Or do you start with an aesthetic conception that eventually finds expression as a piece of furniture?

CF: I tend to go for a somewhat traditional “subtle is more” approach—the impact comes with a strong design. One that will, hopefully, have some meaningful longevity.
Many times I approach a design from an aesthetic angle, prompted by a particular form or material, or by wanting to see a particular form in a particular material.

Or my design and artwork will inform an idea for a furniture piece. For example, a graphic design project, or some bit of typography, might give me an idea for a shape to use in a design. Or some material that I’d been using for an artwork might inspire me to use it in a furniture piece, and a furniture piece might inspire a design for a guitar amplifier. And vice versa. Sort of a “synesthesia” of a creative process.


Chris Ferebee, Hollow Table prototype, Custom, executed 1999
October 11, 2015 Modern Art & Design Auction

LAMA: Tell us about the evolution of the Hollow Table.

CF: Well, believe it or not, a vintage thermos inspired it. I had been collecting vintage thermoses from the fifties and sixties for more than 20 years. One of the first I found had this really cool hammered aluminum surface, sort of like the pattern on a golf ball. The original idea for the Hollow Table, instead of being all wood, was bent sheet aluminum with that hammered surface pattern. It was also originally designed with a centered cut across the top to slide open for storage.

LAMA: How do you distinguish between art and design? Or do you?

CF: True art is a synthesis of craft and innovation that challenges our perception, creates a “transformative experience” and, at its most effective, inspires us, positively. A Slinky, an Eames chair, a Rothko painting, Mont-Saint-Michel, the Grand Canyon—or, for me, any number of Jerry Lewis movies. Each has its own affect on experience. Each is its own form of art.

Chris Ferebee Hollow Table, LAMA Auction October 11, 2015

Chris Ferebee, Hollow Table prototype, Custom, executed 1999
October 11, 2015 Modern Art & Design Auction

LAMA: Name your top three favorite pieces of 20th-century design.

CF: Jean Prouvé’s Cité lounge chair, Bertoia Bird Chair for Knoll, and any of Marc Newson’s designs.


Lot Information:

Chris Ferebee
Hollow Table prototype
Custom, executed 1999
Retains designer’s label
10″ x 48″ x 22″
This example is the prototype of two handmade tables produced at a later
date. This prototype debuted at the International Contemporary Furniture
Fair (ICFF) in 2000.
Provenance: The artist, New York
Literature: Young American Designers. C. Kowalski Dougherty, ed. 2006.
15.; Furniture Design. teNeues exh. cat. 2002. N. pag.

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