COVID-19 has taken a wrecking ball to New York City’s restaurant industry like perhaps no other—a fact that pains jewelry designer Marla Aaron every time she walks by a closed restaurant, its chairs silently stacked on the edges of tables.
“As an industry we’ve had it rough, but not even in the same league as what’s happened in the restaurant world,” says Aaron, a resident of East Harlem. “We know this, and so many of us are small business owners and we feel it.”
The inventive designer was inspired to use her creativity and resources to help. She’s partnering with chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen, which is currently raising funds to help keep restaurants open, and their teams working, through its Take a Seat for Restaurants campaign.
She had it in her mind to create a tiny restaurant chair, and to donate all the profits from its sale. But what chair? She Googled most common restaurant chair to find the round-backed cane chair thousands of restaurants use.
It became her model, and the resulting wee chair—an art object, figurine, and free-form pendant—is a 2-inch-tall sterling silver piece that sells for $250, with 100% of the proceeds going to World Central Kitchen.
The chair is sold on Marla Aaron’s website, and also in the designer’s branded vending machine, which as of Feb. 15 has been stationed at 1 Rockefeller Center at Rockefeller Center’s South Plaza, between 48th and 49th streets outside the Today show. (The brand’s fun machine made its debut inside the Brooklyn Museum in 2017).
The project has inspired widespread selflessness, the designer says: “When one of our workshops heard about it, they insisted on donating a part of the labor—you know this is huge.” Additionally, her silver supplier donated the metal for the first few hundred chairs, and retail partners nationwide have offered to sell the chairs, forgoing commission to maximize funds raised.
“I always say that jewelry’s only job is to bring joy to people,” Aaron wrote on her website. “I do believe that but this project sort of expands jewelry’s general job description.”
Photo: Marla Aaron’s charitable chair with a few of her famous locks (all photos courtesy of Marla Aaron)
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