Saturday, March 21, 2015

Dynamic Design...

Over the past years, I have come to use a new term in my design philosophy. The term, "dynamic design", allows me to modify a design to adapt to circumstances, for either technical considerations, or for purely aesthetic reasons. This is a term I have coined to describe how design doesn't necessarily need to be cast in stone but instead can be modified as a project progresses. The changes I refer to can be either subtle changes or large scale changes. One of the meanings for the word "dynamic" from the American Heritage Dictionary.

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 this would be 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 must admit that I am a fan of "minimalism", and have read at least one book on the subject. You tend to gain a different perspective on design after being exposed to the philosophy of minimalism.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Design (2)

In my previous post I discuss the concept of hatching a design and transferring it to paper. I now have a sketch on a pad and need to evolve this sketch into an object. At this stage I begin to refine the design, since it is but a sketch at this point. The sketch now evolves into a drawing with more defined, straight and equidistant lines. This process involves a few iterations and I build from my previous drawing with each of the iterations. This process results in a drawing which closely resembles the wood object I wish to create. Although the shape of the object has been essentially defined, an important component of the design is yet to come. Many of my designs have the type of wood and the grain graphics of the wood as the focal point. I usually begin with the design and then select woods with interesting graphics. Graphics is another word for grain pattern and the mix of heartwood and sapwood on a board, which can be either pronounced or subdued. I then spend time determining how to incorporate this interesting wood into the design.

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 a selection of woods to make 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 get excited about finding a board or boards with interesting graphics and color and then creating an object with this wood. This must be the artist in me...

Sunday, March 15, 2015


When you are creating either a piece of furniture or a wood object and not following a pre-determined plan, a design will need to be established. I hardly ever work from plans. The design process typically begins with an idea hatched in my mind and is then transferred to a sketch pad. The idea might have originated from a shape I have seen, the need for a particular object or a furniture piece with certain design criteria, or simply an idea hatched on a whim. The basis of the design process is coming up with a good design. What is it about a design that make it a success? Is it the aesthetics of the piece, the pleasing proportions, the balance of form and function... or all these characteristics combined?

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 favorite 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, where 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.