Fameg: More than meets the eye
Fameg is one of the largest manufacturers of bentwood furniture in Europe, drawing on more than a 130-year legacy of design, craftsmanship and innovation. Remodern is a long-time supplier of Fameg, but its storied history and approach to production means there is always more to learn and appreciate about the brand. So Jen and Tim took a return visit to Fameg in September 2019, and, as always, found there is more than meets the eye.
“We invite our guests to Fameg to show them the most important departments in our factory: the sawmill, cutting and bending area that we see as the heart of the factory. Then we take our guests to the drying, assembling and staining sections. We want to show the whole unique process of creating bentwood furniture.” – Fameg.
Based in Radomsko, Poland, Fameg is one of the original factories of Gebrüder Thonet, which Michael Thonet founded in 1853. Thonet revolutionised the design and production of furniture by using hot steam to transform wood into a highly flexible material. His famous Chair No. 14 (1859) showcased the graceful shapes achieved by steam-bending wood, which allowed for the industrial production of a chair for the first time. Chair No. 14 is one of the most popular chairs in history and is still manufactured by Fameg as Chair A-14.
Fameg has a large and sprawling manufacturing facility that feels like a small town, and where approximately 800 employees work in mostly pre-war industrial buildings. Manufacturing and assembly take place in industrial interiors with handmade processes and modern machinery, and since 2012, Fameg has become more self-sufficient with the introduction of one of the most advanced sawmill facilities in the world. Fameg sources the highest quality beechwood timber from FSC certified forests and has it delivered in its raw tree log form, enabling Fameg to manage the entire fabrication process from start to finish.
While the company has introduced new technologies in recent years, there is no replacement for the handmade craftsmanship and critical manual functions required to bring the bentwood furniture to life. Individual handcrafted components are arranged and managed in an extremely organised way to cater for the complexity of the production line, and each finished piece requires the meticulous skill and attention to detail of many different craftspeople.
“The factory was established in 1881 and many elements of its technology are still unchanged, made by hand and supported with traditional wood-bending methods. It is unique in the times of mass production and automatisation. We want our guests to experience the continuity of this tradition and see how important, unique and difficult the bending process is. They also see the new, modern designs we are working on.” – Fameg
Tim had the privilege to experience the labour-intensive handcrafting process, bending the main sub-frame of the A-18 chair by using a machine with a specific jig configuration to form the bentwood in a number of directions. An initial steaming process maintains the timber in a malleable state, after which it is quickly clamped into position to be manually formed into the mould. With brute force and a small window of time, the bent timber is formed by changing direction many times, carefully following the contours of the mould to avoid breakage and splitting. This extremely challenging process requires precision, energy, strength and stamina – and multiple attempts – in hot and humid temperature conditions alongside the steam ovens. (No doubt this would be a desirable department to work in Poland’s winter.)
Fameg undertakes extensive product testing and quality control on all products to ensure they meet the high-quality and specific demands of the market. The company also offers most of their classics in plus-size chairs to cater for markets that require larger seats.
Seeing, understanding and participating in Fameg’s production process offers a true appreciation for the company’s quality and craft. Indeed, when you purchase a Fameg chair, you invest in a piece of art, history and genuine craftsmanship. Fameg’s classics will forever remain its signature product, but the brand’s progressive approach also sees the development of new award-winning products in collaboration with local designers. Fameg’s goal is to develop a contemporary equivalent of the A-18 chair – one of the most successful chairs and designs in the world – and we can’t wait to see it.