Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it certainly has done wonders for the designs of Daniel Michalik, a young, Brooklyn-based furniture designer. “Humans are naturally curious and seeing a material used in a new and non-traditional way naturally triggers inquisitiveness,” says Michalik. It was this natural curiosity that led Michalik to his own key to success—cork.
While most picture the squishy, naturally occurring material as only suitable for stopping up wine bottles or as a wall-mounted tack board, Michalik sees cork as an ideal design solution. His unique collection of products—from chairs, to benches, to bowls—are composed entirely of cork. “I realized cork can take these shapes and forms that other materials can’t. On top of that, it’s natural and self-replenishing, so I wasn’t dealing with the environmental problems that plastics and metals present.”
Amazingly, cork is quite flexible and able to stretch and bend into a variety of shapes. To craft his designs, Michalik manipulates the cork into sheets (Sway Stool), blocks (Float Chair), and impressive spoon-like forms (Cortica Chaise Lounge and Minhoca Stool). Since all of his designs are composed of only cork, the products are safe for outdoor use and offer a welcoming, velvety texture to users.
As and added bonus to cork’s organic sustainable qualities, Michalik’s process allows him to utilize a majority of the base material across his product portfolio. “What’s nice about it is there’s not a lot of waste. I’m just taking one sheet or compressed granulated pieces and carving it all out. Other times what I do is I do start with a block and cut it into the right size and shape and glue it together,” he explains.
Michalik holds an intense passion for finding the potential in underutilized, alternative materials. He believes that there is a need for designers to push their creativity with eco-healthy materials and get them to perform in different ways. “If we widen our scope in material choice, then we also widen our scope in form and design, manufacturing, and all those things that go along with it,” he says.