Jan. 9 2013 03:15 PM

Concrete is the designer's current material of choice

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“Tufted,” Erin Dace Behling’s concrete and plywood bench

Erin Dace Behling grapples with how to label herself: artist, designer or craftsperson? The materials she uses change the function of otherwise familiar pieces of furniture; you wouldn't want to plop down on her bench or circular settee, because what appears to be tufted material is actually concrete that Behling pours into molds lined with fabric, so that after it's set, peeling the material back yields a tricky, textured effect.

"I'm playing with tufting, softness and seduction," Behling says of the concrete pieces. "Applying the concrete makes it austere, and more low-brow. So, it's about materials versus the form, and the duality of the two."

The majority of Behling's work is dual in one way or another—masculine materials paired with feminine techniques like stitching and upholstering—and of high-brow design but made with a commonplace material. Her French chaise lounge, for instance, is covered in medium-pile, hardware-store carpet that Behling says is meant to suggest tract housing and apartment living.

Among Behling's other funky works are a couch made from concrete roof shingles and wooden stools with cotton piping she wove for the seats.

"Something that's really important," she says, "is that moment of discovery—I think you need to get up to my work and see it, because it's not immediately what it seems."

Behling's work will be part of ModernF: Where Furniture is the ARTform, an exhibition at White Box Contemporary (1040 Seventh Ave., Downtown) running from Wednesday, Jan. 9, through Jan. 27. The show also features work by Dominique Houriet, Marcus Papay, Jennifer Anderson and Vince Robles, winner of the 2012 San Diego Art Prize. A closing reception will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on Jan. 26.

Behling, a master's candidate at SDSU, says her work lies somewhere between construction worker and furniture designer. Being a young, petite woman has presented challenges in places like Home Depot, which she says she's now boycotting, where men would call out, "You go, girl!" as she loaded plywood into the car. Behling says she's now a loyal customer of Squires-Belt, a building-materials store in Southeast San Diego.

Amy blogs at saysgranite.com and you can follow her on Twitter @saysgranite.

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