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Wellington’s ‘Lord of the rings’ goes global with hi tech chainmail

4 Sep 2015

Wellington may have literally found its own Lord of the Rings in former Weta Workshop artistic director Kayne Horsham who has taken the concept of medieval chainmail to dramatic heights.

Kaynemaile casino
Kaynemaile custom ceiling, Grand Casino, USA

Wellington may have literally found its own Lord of the rings in former Weta Workshop artistic director Kayne Horsham who has taken the concept of medieval chainmail to dramatic heights at the capital’s new Sofitel Hotel.

Horsham, raised in the Wairarapa but a Wellington-dweller for the past 30 years, said earlier this month (week starting Aug 24) a massive sheet of seamless hi-tech plastic mesh was hung on the exterior of the Sofitel on Bolton St. “It could well be the world’s tallest piece of single material installed on a building. It was 50 metres high and weighed 600 kilograms. It really pushed the boundary in terms of height,” Horsham said.

The mesh is lightweight, is easily attached with swivel connections for superb seismic capabilities, and is permeable to allow air and light to pass through it. The installation comes after the company installed a 10-storey high tension screen balustrade – a 650 kilogram seamless tube 35 metres high running through an entire stairwell at Victoria University.

Other examples of Kaynemaile in the capital include light shades in the foyer of the West Plaza Hotel, a chandelier in D4 on Featherstone St, and screens at The Lanes Bowling Lounge on Wakefield St. The material was also used in the Jelly Boom lighting display during this year’s Wellington LUX Night Light Festival on the waterfront.

Internationally, Kaynemaile has been involved in scores of high profile projects including those in Europe, China, the US, Australia, the Middle East, South Africa, and Asia.

Horsham founded Kaynemaile in Wellington in 2002 after working on chainmail costumes featured in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It was a laborious process which involved cutting rings from plastic piping, cutting each ring open so they could be linked to others, and super gluing each ring shut. “Eventually I proved we could injection-mould links together in a continuous manner… to produce chainmail links. I soon realised we could have an intelligent material that performs in all sorts of ways.”

What he eventually developed was an innovative seamless mesh which could be made on an industrial scale for use on vast projects such as “building armour”, solar shields, kinetic building wraps, interior screens suitable for projecting images, and security screens, as well as art works, and lightshades.

Kaynemaile’s seamless mesh is essentially made from the same material as that used to manufacture F16 fighter jet cockpits, astronaut helmets, aircraft windows, and bullet-proof glass. It can be made in all sorts of colours and is tough, so tough that Horsham once made a trampoline from it to illustrate its resilience. “Rings are very strong inherently and as you accumulate rings together it gets stronger. For our purpose in the architectural space that’s what we want.”

The Petone factory is highly automated but there are 12 employees helping churn out mesh products 24 hours a day, six days a week, ready to be air-freighted to clients around the globe. The company is producing at full capacity, prompting Kaynemaile to launch a global fundraising strategy.

“We’ve got 100 strategic firms that the proposition has been put in front of. We are looking for between US$5-$7m… in expansion capital.”

The funding would be used on extra manufacturing equipment, R&D, and setting up branches in Australia and the United States, Kaynemaile’s two largest international markets. It is expected post-investment that the company would reach $30m to $40 million in sales annually.

Taking on the world from Wellington has some wonderful advantages, Horsham said. "When people come here we have the benefit of Wellington’s great entertainment scene where we can take them out at night, go to fantastic restaurants, all a stone’s throw from where we are. Most of the time people have fallen in love with Wellington by the time we have finished with them.”

He said Wellington’s reputation as the creative capital, and our honesty, have played a key role in his company’s success. “It is about not just having a creative economy in Wellington but also an honest economy. It is what enables us to survive and prosper.”

Horsham has just completed a collaboration with renowned US kinetic façade artist Ned Kahn, and others, on the Welcome Tower of the Runway at Playa Vista in Los Angeles. The ribbed structure is intended to suggest a garment rippling in the wind. Each rib supports two layers of plastic mesh that ripples like the ocean in a storm when the wind picks up.

“Ned [Kahn] has more for us. One in Taiwan looks like we will do it as it is progressing quickly, another two in San Francisco, and one in Texas.”

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