Thursday, November 5, 2009

Furniture design... some background

One of my favourite topics is furniture design and its evolution. In earlier centuries, furniture was not very common, typically only the aristocracy could indulge in furniture such as chairs,tables and cabinets. The aristocracy of the era would regularly task furniture makers to create ornate chairs, tables and cabinets. The furniture of these early periods was assembled without much consideration for wood expansion and contraction, also known as wood movement. This methodology did not present much of a problem as the buildings of these early years were not heated very much, and inside, outside temperatures and humidity levels were often similar. In later centuries, heated interiors introduced wood movement as a criteria in the furniture making process.

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

Art deco...

I briefly touch on my interest and fascination with the art deco period in my artist statement. The art deco period of style was probably the most exciting period of design of the 20th century. As with most periods, Art Deco is partly derived from the previous, organic Art Nouveau period and partly to distinguish France as a leading nation for design. The Art Deco name is derived from the "Exposition International des Arts Decoratifs", an event in 1925 Paris showcasing many European designers. There was competition in this era between countries to determine the leading centers of design, and this exposition brought to light some of the leading design movements of the time. Consequently, the art deco style resulted from the predominant style of the exposition. The exhibition reflected contemporary style of the time and popularized the coherent theme which is today regarded as Art Deco.

The Art Deco aesthetic is comprised of many elements and characteristics. Not all elements need to be part of a design, but as few as one or two elements would define a object as Art Deco influenced. Sun rays, geometric forms, curvilinear forms, chevrons, stepped forms, inlay are a few of the elements which define Art Deco style. Art deco became an international design movement quickly moving from country to country. Europe was at the forefront of embracing this movement and the US was on board two or three years later. One of the reasons I find this period fascinating is how Art Deco evolved from the 1920's through to the late 1930's. What began as the earlier Art Deco style later embraced the "streamline" characteristics of the 1930's, Art Deco of this later part of the period had somewhat different design elements than the earlier part of the period. In its later years, Art Deco had become very commercialized and as with other periods of design, a revulsion to the style slowly began and the creation of a new design aesthetic resulted.

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.