Ask people to think of a chain-link fence, and the pleasure center in their brain isn't exactly going to light up.
Unless, of course, they're thinking of Dutch designer Joep Verhoeven's creations.
Verhoeven's company, Lace Fence, takes the stuff of penitentiaries, abandoned lots and grim school yards and turns it into something that could almost sneak its way into a painting by Rembrandt or Vermeer.
"I was on my bicycle passing a fence," Verhoeven told Crave in an e-mail, "and someone had fixed an opening in the fence with some wire. That was my 'Eureka' moment: Why not guide the wire by hand into shapes or patterns and integrate it into the industrial fence?"
Verhoeven decided to apply the techniques of lace-making to the task, and Lace Fence was born. The company has since produced numerous examples of fences that fully retain their function while taking on the deliciously supple and complex appearance of lace--a onetime eyesore becomes an opportunity to create something striking.
"The technique is the same as lacing, only we use nails and hammers instead of needles and pins," Verhoeven says. A hole is cut in standard, machine-made fencing, and the completed handmade design is wired in.
The company employs a crew of 35 craftspeople in Bangalore, India, to execute the designs, which are drawn out using a basic 2D drawing program. Another 30 part-time workers are on call for large projects or tight deadlines. Verhoeven says it takes the full-time crew about a month to produce 150 square meters of the lacy chain-link.
Pricing depends on the type, size and complexity of a given project, but Verhoeven says that on average, the chain-link itself costs about 63 euros ($83) to 139 euros ($183) per square meter, with frames and mounting provided on request for an additional cost. Clients have so far included fashion brands such as Nike and Hugo Boss, along with architects, governments and schools.
Process and pricing aside, it's the finished product that counts.
"The amazement people have is not really in the craft (as it is for me), but more in the chain-link fence they recognize and realize it can actually be something of beauty," Verhoeven says. "Mission accomplished."
Check out our gallery for a sampling, and prepare to be impressed.