Designer mimics human skin with flesh-like furniture

British furniture designer and owner of Studio 9191 Gigi Barker has come up with a rather unique furniture collection: a range of seating that looks and feels like human skin.

While the seats are actually made of leather, their shape, form, and touch mimics that of bulbous, podgy, human flesh and they're oddly comforting, as Gigi's customers reluctantly admit.

Although the seats are made of leather - the closest material to human skin that she could find - they're so oddly shaped that they aren't instantly recognizable. And that's exactly the effect that she was hoping to achieve with the project, which she calls 'A Body of Skin'.

Through the project, aptly called "A Body of Skin", Gigi wanted to explore people's reactions to furniture that is strangely familiar to the sight, smell and touch, but not recognizable. "That made the viewers question how to interact with the shapes and to form their own conclusions," she said.

To create the unique pieces in her new furniture collection, Gigi started off by tracing the outline of an anonymous gentleman's midriff, as he was seated. Once she decided on the form she was going for, she first made small models out of clay.

When the styling was finalized, she then blew up the shapes to full size, cast in silicone. Silicone, Gigi explained, has the right sensory impact, and it "reacts to our bodies, matching our body temperature as well - perfect for soothing a crying baby".

The final collection consists of a voluptuous seat formed from two rounded elements, and a plump footstool. Both pieces are available in different shades, to imitate the various colors of the human skin.

"I hand-made all the pieces myself, creating the initial sculptural shapes in the studio and then moulding the leather in my bathtub at home," Gigi explained.

If you've ever touched a blob of silicone before, you'd know that it's a highly unnerving experience - so similar is its texture to human flesh. So imagine sitting on a large silicone chair covered in leather, it's almost like sitting in someone's lap.

The idea sounds bizarre, but it's surprisingly popular - all of Gigi's seats on display at Central Saint Martin's College of Arts and Design were snatched up by intrigued buyers. She's already talking with retailers about reaching out to the consumer market.

When the collection hits the market, the fleshy stool will be priced at 440 (approx. $750) and the large chair will be 1,500 (approx. $2,500). Gigi plans to introduce more pieces into the collection and she's currently collaborating with fashion designers and architects to see what else the material could be used for. She even used it to make a dress that she wore on the opening night of her show.