No, you bite me, Karim Rashid.

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Bite Me Chair, Karim Rashid, 1968
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This is Karim Rashid’s new “Bite Me” Chair, a garish blobject in the shape of a bubblegum-pink molar. There was a pretty unanimous chorus of dislike and disapproval of this chair on the CDR (Canadian Design Resource) blog in May, and Rashid – the master of plasticky furniture that looks carelessly cheap when it’s made and then ages badly – totally deserved it. Lately I’ve let this blog’s Monday Cringe List feature lapse, but the Bite Me Chair has forced a revival. Not only is the chair bad enough on its own – and that’s not even taking into account its arch, attention-seeking name – but thanks to one of one of the CDR’s commenters I see that it is also suspiciously like Wendell Castle‘s 1968 fibreglas Molar Chair, shown below. I suspect it’s not the only piece of Wendell Castle furniture that Rashid has, well, paid homage to. Wendell Castle occasionally falls into the gimmick furniture camp too, but somehow he never quite tips over into unapologetic, crass grossitude the way Rashid does. Castle’s work has more solidity and authority, even when it’s really weird, but Rashid just doesn’t seem to understand this. If you’re going to reference 60s biomorphism, do it well for heaven’s sake. Castle didn’t have to be troubled in the late 60s/early 70s by the problem of plastic’s unsustainability, because it wasn’t a known issue, but Rashid… what decade does he think he’s in? Some of Rashid’s new chairs are apparently recyclable but that doesn’t make them environmentally superior to no chair at all. Wendell Castle is still designing, so if we’re going to have plastic blobjects at all, let’s have Castle make them. And even then, let’s edit.

Wendell Castle, Molar Chair, 1968

Wendell Castle with his molar chairs, 1973

Above, Wendell Castle in 1973 with his Molar side chairs. More work from Castle below, from the 60s to the present. He’s 77 now and was nevertheless listed in a 10 to watch list this year.

Chair by Wendell Castle

Wendell Castle, Plastic Lights, 1960s

Wendell Castle, Enclosed Reclining Environment, 1969

Wendell Castle, Black Widow, 2007

Above, Wendell Castle at his Scotsville, New York, studio, with his 2007 Black Widow chair. Photo by Ben Hoffman, via artinfo. Wow, does he look good at 77. Above that, his Enclosed Reclining Environment, 1969, photo by Eva Heyd from the NYT, Courtesy of R 20th Century, New York. Top photo, plastic lights via the NYT. Below, a bench from 2007.

Wendell Castle, "Dem Bones" bench, 2007

Below, a rare molar sofa. And see here for a closeup of the red chair.

art of jennifer tong and vary rare molar sofa by wendell castle + kartell barcart

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7 Responses to “No, you bite me, Karim Rashid.”

  1. Bree Says:

    Totally down with your Karim Rashid hate-on. I wish they would tell young impressionable design students that this is exactly the kind of design that they should be working against and not aspiring to. I am so bummed he is one of the most famous Canadian designers. All style (and not even really) and no substance.


  2. Eva Says:

    That’s the difference between design and green tea. Green tea tastes even better as a rehash. But a mass audience ignores the fresh new original design. It takes them 20 or 30 years to get aquainted to it. That’s why imitations are more successful than the original.

  3. Sally Cinnamon Says:

    I don’t know enough about the lifespan or environmental impact of the new types of plastic to give an informed opinion, but I totally agree that the best product in this regard is the one that is never made.

    I don’t think it resembles the molar chair though. I just don’t see it. Might as well be inspired by the Eames plastic armchair mounted on the Elephant stool.

    Instead I find its greatest weakness lies in its bubble-gum aesthetics. A product cannot just be well designed and well built. It should also possess a timeless beauty. That way it remains in use for longer.

  4. LB Says:

    Agreed all round, even with your point, Sally, about the dissimilarity… I just meant that they’re both toothlike. If someone’s going to make another “tooth” chair, why not try to actually improve on the original, instead of producing something so uniformly crappy? I’m not a giant fan of things made to look like other things in the first place – I don’t need a bar of soap that looks like a helicopter or birthday cake either – but if I had to judge between these tooth chairs, Castle leaves Rashid in the dust.

  5. footagehead Says:

    Oh, now I get it, thanks for the 411 on this bogus Canadian “designer”, I thought he was one of the semi finalists for the reality show
    “Top Designers……Who Can I Copy Now ?”

  6. Snewlin Says:

    ‘…that doesn’t make them environmentally superior to no chair at all.’

    ‘…if we’re going to have plastic blobjects at all, let’s have Castle make them.’

    Easily two of the worst points of design criticism I have ever read. Firstly, this argument that no chair at all is better than a recyclable one is a joke. Do you expect designers not to do their work? To turn down projects? To reject opportunities to make something they believe in just cause you don’t approve?

    Second, is there not enough room in this world for more than one designer/artist who does organic work? Please inform Zaha Hadid, Anish Kapoor and the late great Pierre Pauline… amongst others.

    Also, have fun buying an eco-friendly resin and fiberglass Castell chair. I don’t image this blog generates enough ad money to get one. The Rashid chair on the other hand… A couple of shifts at the coffee shop and you could probably get a couple.

    Blogs are so sad because the criticism is so banal and takes on the tone of a scared student or bitter old-timer who can’t get shit made.

    Have fun being a hater… Especially on that low hanging fruit Karim Rashid.

  7. T. E. Samad Says:

    This particular “Bite Me” chair by Karim Rashid just doesn’t impress me, and, yes, it does have a commonality with Castle’s chair. But let’s not judge a successful industrial designer by only focusing on one of his products.

    KR has designed over 2, 900 products, and many of his designs are in the permanent collection of museums around the world.

    Sure, KR comes up with some horrible, tacky designs now and then, but his successes in life definitely outweigh his failures.

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