Monday, December 28, 2009
Cubism can be defined as follows, "leaving the tradition of seizing natural objects from a single angle under the laws of perspective,a tradition which had existed since the Renaissance,and while shifting the viewing point of the object to different positions,at the same time dividing it into many fragments seen from various angles,and rearranging these fragments later became an important characteristics of Cubism". Cubism went through different phases over its short life, ranging from analytical to synthetic cubism. In its relatively short lifespan, much innovation occurred within the Cubism genre which has influenced later art movements.
The Cubist emphasized a flat, two-dimensional surface and rejected the idea that art should imitate nature, refusing traditional techniques such as perspective, foreshortening, modeling, and chiaroscuro. Spanish painter, Pablo Picasso and French artist Georges Braques in Paris founded the movement before World War I. The movement is considered to have its roots in the work of Post-Impressionist, Paul Cezanne. It reduced everything to cubes and other geometrical forms. Cubist artists depicted drastically fragmented objects, sometimes showing multiple sides simultaneously. Cubism was the forerunner of abstract art.
Cubism can be regarded as a wide ranging art movement that lasted from 1907 until the middle of the 1920's. I recently designed the wood art in the photo as a tribute to Cubism. It was an interesting exercise in design for me with cubism in mind along with other criteria such as limited materials, stability, introduction of metal into the work, etc. The work depicts three levels of cubes, the larger virtual cube, the middle solid cubes, and the single dimension cubes in the form of inlay.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
dy·nam·ic - Characterized by continuous change, activity, or progress.
As my wood art or studio furniture is being handcrafted, sometimes the design I originally envisioned can be improved at different stages, or the original design can remain as is. Having this flexibility provides a continuous excitement for the wood artist or studio furniture maker along with the benefit of improvising on the original design after seeing the wood art at various intermediary stages. An excellent example is the hall table design in my previous posts. I had chosen to invert the base of the table for both aesthetic and technical reasons. Not to say the original design of the maquette would not have worked, inverting it just simplifies a design dilemma for me and introduces a new aesthetic to the piece. After creating the maquette, I realize I needed to have a fairly stable, strong sub-base to be able to support the V-shaped arch, whereas inverting the base utilizes the points of the arches as legs.
Often, we become fixated on a particular design and don't bother seeking out alternatives which often stare us right in the face. Case in point, I have been creating a new design for a smaller wood object, and as part of my philosophy I strive to use as many materials in my possession as possible, without continuously sourcing new material for the components. Working with material at hand sometimes limits what I can do, but on the other hand challenges me to work within certain constraints, in this case certain materials. So here I have an instance of what I like to call "dynamic design", sometimes the beauty of a design is also in its simplicity. Simplicity is one of the tenets of the minimalism philosophy. I have to admit that I am a fan of "minimalism", and have read one book on the subject so far. You tend to gain a different perspective on design after being exposed to the philosophy of minimalism.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
On the other hand I now needed to create a structure to firmly hold the table top itself, since the base is arched and the pointed top has minimal latitude with which to securely fasten a table top. The new design of the base now opened up a possibility for me, to create a "wishbone" styled arch. The arched base could be simply an arch but why not create an image of something else while maintaining the arch structure and shape? I looked at a few wishbone details and re-designed the arch to better reflect the shape of a wishbone. In this process I also developed the semi-circular table top support for the table top which melds with the curves in the wishbone and would soon be part of a curved table top. This semi-circular support actually evolved from the original maquette orientation as you can see in the photo above. I also needed to consider the harmony of the table, do all the elements blend together well? I wanted the semi-circular table top support to blend in with the table top so I created it with the same wood species, in this case bloodwood. Bloodwood also nicely contrasts with the maple base.
The cocobolo feet on each of the legs are a small touch I included to bring some of the colour down to the bottom of the "wishbone" shaped base and to create balance.The hall table also needed to have a narrow profile so I placed this criteria in my design. I made it narrow but at the same time stable. When I designed this hall table I use predefined measurements for typical hall table designs. I incorporated a curved top into the design with its widest part at the peak of the "wishbone" arch. I hope I have enlightened a few of you of the positive aspects in using a maquette as part of the design process.
Monday, November 30, 2009
"A maquette (French word for scale model is a small scale model or rough draft of an unfinished architectural work or a sculpture. It is used to visualize and test shapes and ideas without incurring the cost and effort of producing a full scale product."
I often use maquettes to visualize my design in three dimensions. The maquette also serves to determine if both the proportions and the aesthetic of the piece are correct, which is to say visually appealing. There can be a fair amount of time spent on actually creating the maquette but typically it is of no cost and the benefit is tremendous. I make my maquette from scrap wood and the process becomes one of experimentation. Often the maquette will help identify any issues which can arise in the creation of the larger, full scale piece. Another benefit is to help determine the stability of the full scale piece. The maquette is essentially a scaled down version of the larger work so the inherent characteristics are there but on a smaller level.
The original design of the hall table base as illustrated in this maquette is something I would like to pursue at a later date as it is quite intriguing. In conclusion, the process of initially creating a scale model or maquette greatly alleviates any doubts about a design. I can now feel confident pursuing the full scale version that I am on the correct path. In my next post I will show the completed hall table with the modified base...
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
On occasion, I instead create a design around a particularly interesting board or set of boards which have exciting, interesting graphics. Basing a design around a particular board or set of boards can be quite challenging, and I like to rise to challenges. I find challenging myself expands my skills and provides me a different outlook on the design process. Instead of a methodical approach, it is instead "material based" for lack of a better set of words.
These are my two approaches to design. The first one involves drawing and refining a design and then acquiring an interesting wood selection for the piece. The second approach involves having wood with interesting graphics and basing a design around this wood. This approach is more of an artistic approach to my craft, whereas the first approach I would say is the craftsman method. They both have their place and serve a purpose. I typically use the artistic approach for speculative work and use the more structured craftsman method for commissions where a design needs to be defined. Once the design is fairly complete and drawings ready, the technical details are determined. These details involve the dimensions of the individual pieces of wood, the joinery involved, is there any alternative media in the piece?
I must say I get excited about finding a board or boards with interesting graphics and colour and creating an object with this wood. This must be the artist in me...
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Taking a step back, the aesthetics and pleasing proportions are definitely at the forefront. I'm usually drawn to a piece of furniture or object that stands out with respect to the "look" of the piece. This one characteristic causes me to stop and further examine the piece by trying to understand what has drawn me to this particular design. This analysis aids my design process as I better understand what characteristics of an object or piece of furniture I am drawn to. We all have different styles of furniture that we are drawn to, but the common theme is good design. My favourite style of furniture is modern and contemporary. Typically even an admirer of period styles of furniture will stop at a well-designed modern piece of furniture to further analyze it.
We've all heard the saying that everything has already been discovered or invented. I have even heard of this saying applied to furniture design. After all, we're re-shaping the same objects over and over... adding curves, changing proportions, adding ornamentation, removing the ornamentation, using darker or lighter woods, utilizing curves, replacing curves with straight lines, utilizing thicker or thinner components, etc. It is easy to come to this conclusion, however, I regularly see new pieces of furniture or decorative wood objects that make me sit back and say "wow, that is an interesting, unique design".. or "that is a cool design, I wonder if it's been done before". In light of this, the boundaries of design are limitless, one just needs to think outside the box. Also, I feel that often using pre-existing styles as templates for a new design sometimes handicaps the designer , the designer subconsciously has the existing style in mind and cannot get past it. Sometimes it is better to begin with a clean slate, in my case, hatch an idea then transfer it to pad and pencil and begin to sketch it without being influenced by pre-existing designs.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Once these issues have been overcome, the design possibilities open to me are unlimited. The choice of media I previously created my designs with was somewhat limited to different types of wood; domestic, exotic and figured. Today I can incorporate metal, glass and possibly stone in my work, along with my predominant medium of wood. Throughout history, much art and craft has been designed using mixed media so I am by no means a trend setter here. Artists and artisans of earlier eras had probably also sought to challenge themselves with the addition of different medium to their main material and to appreciate the beauty of mixing wood, metal, glass, stone in a piece of art.
Monday, November 9, 2009
A fairly well known abstract painter, Wassily Kandinsky, was an art instructor at the school. Walter Gropius founded the school and Mies van der Rhone and Marcel Breuer taught architecture. The Bauhaus developed from the Expressionism of the early Weimar years, 1918- 1919 and transitioned to Constructivism and finally to a architectural emphasis in its later years towards 1933. The school itself evolved during the few years it was in existence in both direction and location. It began as an edgy art and design school but became more mainstream in its latter years and was ultimately dissolved.
Although Bauhaus is today associated with a style of design it was in fact a leading art, craft and design school in its era. In the period from 1919 - 1933 this school was the leading design institute in Germany. The school was comprised of different departments ranging from arts. crafts, metalwork, furniture, design, printing and architecture. These departments combined to form a fairly independent art and design institute which heavily influenced much of the design emanating from Germany throughout this period. Much of the Bauhaus style continues on to this day, influencing a considerable body of design. The Bauhaus derived style of architecture has been very influential in mid-century buildings.
Many of the instructors at the Bauhaus design school emigrated to the US and became architects and professors of architecture in the leading universities of the 1930's through the 1950's. A fascinating period of design and architecture in my opinion...
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Frame and panel construction was invented in the middle centuries precisely to address this wood movement issue. This technique allowed a solid wood panel to literally float within a wood frame composed of rails and stiles. The solid wood panel could expand and contract on a seasonal basis and not cause any structural failure within the furniture. Using this process of building furniture created many more possibilities for furniture design and its widespread appeal began in earnest. In more recent centuries, furniture also began to become more affordable as more furniture makers flourished and along with this standardized, robust joinery techniques began to appear.
Numerous periods exist over the past centuries and each of these periods had a style or styles associated with them. Additionally, each country had a style of its own within these periods. Similar furniture design principles were adopted by many countries over the different periods. Popular furniture styles which are widely recognized have familiar names such as English Chippendale, German Biedermeier, American Federal and Arts & Crafts, French Art Nouveau, Italian Rococo, etc. To be continued...
Monday, November 2, 2009
I embrace design elements of Art Deco and try to be subtle with minimal ornamentation, simply focusing on the elements which appeal to me from this period of style. There seems to be an ongoing revival of the Art Deco style occurring with more or less popularity in certain decades since the 1960's. I like to work with this style based on its merits, enjoying the fascinating and beautiful aesthetic of this period. When inspired to create Art Deco styled wood art, I incorporate certain Art Deco elements in the piece, deriving my own style in the process.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
in·spi·ra·tion - an inspiring influence; any stimulus to creative thought or action
What I do in this situation is to seek out inspiration, sometimes from unusual sources. I can either stumble upon inspiration or seek it out. For example since nature can be an excellent inspirational source and it is everywhere around us, I often take a weekend trip to the mountains or simply go hiking. This serves to both clear the mind and also to open my eyes to new shapes and forms. A subtle curve along the surface of a rock ledge, unique shapes of trees, meandering streams, fallen leaves, waterfalls, unusual yet harmonious shapes in nature, curved shapes of polished rocks, all attract my eye. These organic shapes influence my ideas for my designs. Every season brings us new forms and shapes from which to derive art . Often I bring a small pocket-sized sketchpad along with me to draw the outline of an interesting shape or formation I have seen. I have this sketchpad with me more often than not, never sure when I might stumble on to an interesting shape. Another excellent source of design inspiration can be found in the architecture around us. Unusual buildings, bridges, pavilions, monuments and photographs can also serve to provide design ideas in my work. Inspiration can also be derived from every-day items, the shape of a tray, household objects, etc.
From the sketches I then begin to use my imagination as to how a particular shape can evolve into wood art I create. The shape from the sketch can either influence the complete design of the wood art or simply to influence one or two elements of the design. A collage of different elements I have seen can also be instrumental in the creation of a new design or art form. The conclusion to this is that we are surrounded by so much inspiration for design, it is well worth the time and effort to get out and seek new ideas for art forms. The process of taking ourselves away from our studios to seek out inspiration also clears the mind. I feel like I'm recharged after a day or two away from my studio, ready to tackle a new design and create an art form from a shape or image which has inspired me.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
The inside of the cabinet is kind of sparse, but in my opinion this adds to the beauty, it is after all a display cabinet designed to showcase art objects. The graphics on the front doors immediately bring to mind plumes of fire or smoke to me. The orientation of this cabinet is a departure for me. I typically design cabinets with their height or vertical dimension longer than the width, but this cabinet has it the other way around. I like the proportions of this. An alternate photo of the interior can be seen here:
The finish is primarily many coats of thinned shellac with a final application of wax. I finally liberated a small part of my shop by completing this. Why is it that the final 10% of a project takes the longest :)
On to my next project(s).
Friday, January 30, 2009
In this case I have combined cherry and maple feet to form these particular tapered legs. I work with certain sizes and slope of legs which I have been successful with in the past. The slope is not too dramatic, but more gradual which presents an elegantly shaped leg once I have completed the shaping. I rough out the blanks on the tablesaw and bandsaw , but the handplane is my tool of choice for shaping the legs. I use an variety of handplanes ranging from a block plane to the jointer plane, the jointer plane to maintain the correct and straight taper on each of the leg sides.
I can't begin to explain how joyful it is working these rough blanks to fine, elegantly tapered legs which are smoothed to perfection. It's almost like forming a chunk of rough stone into a fine diamond. As the bandsaw marks disappear and the leg sides become straight, true and square to each other along their taper, it becomes difficult to stop planing :) This is where the regular measuring and comparing enters, since even with pencil lines, these are soon enough planed away and any reference disappears. What I do is use one leg as a template and compare the others against this one.
Next entry I will show the completed, shaped leg.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
In the past, I would, through use of either a handsaw or smaller circular saw, try to accomplish this with varied degree of success. I had a miter saw station in mind for a while, and decided recently to go ahead and build one with certain criteria in mind. The station needed to have some portability since permanently attaching to a wall is out of the question for the time being for numerous reasons. The length ( 7 ft.) should allow me to safely and easily manage planks up to eight or nine feet in length and the height is sufficient for me not to need to crouch or bend down. With this in mind, the station also needed to be rugged to handle the heavier hardwood planks. I also needed to be able to work either on the left or right side of the sliding blade with appropriate adjustable flip stops and solid stops.
The sliding miter saw itself has all the features I need.. dual bevel, 10-12 inch wide capacity and 3-4 inch deep cut capacity. The station is composed mostly of baltic birch plywood with hardwood fences. The portability is there through use of two workmate type stands which can be folded and the whole unit with the saw removed can then be moved around. These stands easily handle the weight of the station and saw and any planks I need to cut and are rock solid. The station itself is attached to two large, wide planks spanning the workmate type stands. Having used the station for a week or two so far, I'm very satisfied with it as it meets all my criteria.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
One of the problems working with small components is handling them while shaping them. Since the parts are small and low profile I use my planing board and raise the bed with a narrow sheet of masonite. This provides just enough of a stop for the small part as well as allowing me to handplane it, I place the part at the outermost edge of the planing board to add clearance for the shaping process. I do need to hand hold the components for some of the shaping or profiling though as the tapered shapes just aren't conducive to setting up firmly in a vise..
Interesting how second nature working with hand tools becomes once you've spent some time at it. A long while ago, I would seek out solutions to shaping issues through the use of machines. In the past few years I find it simpler and more efficient to pick up a handplane or a spokeshave and shape the component. No dust and instant results.