Saturday, December 18, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
The person that I have decided to research is not a furniture designer but rather an architect by the name of I.M. Pei., he went to M.I.T wanted to study engineer, but was convinced to study architecture. His role model and influence came from Frank Lloyd Wright. Some of his notable and recognizable works are The Louvre's glass pyramid and the spiral staircase, Bank of China (in Hong Kong) and the John F. Kennedy Library. I find I.M. Pei's work to be amazing and awe inspiring, his works are all very geometrical, clean cut and although it looks very minimal in the design aspects its elegant yet sturdy. Pei's style has been described as modernist with a cubist twist. Besides the obvious geometric shape usage in his designs I also noticed that he also likes to work with glass, He does not really explain why he uses the materials he uses, but it did mention that he likes to find balance in his works, which i think he does. Most if not all does not look too bare or too excessive.
As an artist dealing with environmental issues, one quickly realizes that what material you choose to make your art out of becomes a major issue. Almost everything we touch today comes from non-environmentally friendly sources. Perhaps, the best way to be an environmentally friendly artist is to just not make art? This was an interesting topic to think about in relation to this woodworking class.
I decided to look into George Nakashima, after remembering the slide show at the beginning of the semester showing his very natural looking furniture. I thought his work was interesting because of the way that he would leave much of his wood in its sort of original state, and how he would try to play up the natural beauty that was already present in the wood.
In doing some reading on him, it was interesting to read that he only ever worked with large furniture designers twice, each time being problematic for Kakashima. This was because the large designers would create short cuts and use artificial grains to make the furniture. Obviously this would not work for furniture designed specifically to draw upon the natural anomalies in the wood.
This relates to a conversation that myself and a couple other students in the class had in regards to furniture, such as Ikea, versus furniture made out of hardwood, like the tables we made. This circles back to the question of which is better for the environment. One maybe tempted to argue that Ikea furniture, being less wood intensive is better. It certainly is cheaper. However, as someone who as a poor college student bought Ikea furniture, I would argue that it is definitely not environmentally friendly. Ikea furniture is not designed to last. It is highly functional, which plays towards its appeal, but I’ve already broken a TV stand, and most of my furniture from Ikea will not make it past their life as college student furniture.
While going home for Thanksgiving break, I saw all the hardwood furniture my parents have. Much of it is a couple of generations old. Hardwood furniture will outlive us. This fact clearly shows that hardwood furniture, though perhaps not completely environmentally friendly, would have the lower environmental impact. If you’re hard wood coffee table is going to outlast you, how many are you possibly going to need to buy, right? This in comparison to Ikae furniture, which seems to need replacing fairly regularly. Of course, one has to consider price, and why a place like Ikae would do so well.
Ikae is based on functionality and inexpensive. (Though I sometimes wonder how inexpensive they really are.) The fact that they are inexpensive is very attractive to anyone with a limited budget. If you are trying to furnish an apartment on a limited budget, you are going to buy perhaps five pieces from Ikae instead of the one hardwood piece that same budget would.
Hardwood furniture seems to be what you buy when you get older. My parents either inherited pieces, or bought their own, when they finally could afford it. These pieces are all classics, and will outlast me assuming no unknown forces happen.
So the question could then become, how do you turn pieces like George Nakashima’s hardwood masterpieces, that use local woods and are clearly more environmentally friendly, into pieces that the masses can consume without going bankrupt? After working on the table for this class, it is clearly not an easy question to answer.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
African Mahogany is also known as Khaya senegalensis. It is native to Africa and Madagascar.
It produces little yellow flowers and bears wood-like fruits in the summer.
The African Mahogany is resistant to termites and wood rot, so African Mahogany was very popular and used often to build cabinets, door frames, and boats. The African Mahogany was used in the the early 18th century by American colonist to make furniture because it was durable and easy to work with as well as beautiful.
I tried to find out where this wood is harvested, but I had no luck.
More information about the African Mahogany: http://bft.cirad.fr/cd/BFT_236_43-56.pdf
George Jack (1855-1932)
60 1/2 inches (153.7 cm); Length: 84 1/4 inches (214.7 cm.); Width: 29 1/2 inches (75.0 cm)Mahogany, ornamented with marquetry.
George Washington Jack is Scottish-American born in New York and grew up in Glasgow. Later, Jack moved to London and in 1880, Jack was hired by the Morris & Co. a furniture company that was established by Philip Webb a furniture maker and William Morris an artist and textile designer. His central role in designing for Morris & Co. started in 1890 when Phillip Webb retired.
The distinguishing characteristics of his works are that they are very slender, delicate, and graceful.
Most of his influence comes from Phillip Webb, but his designs were also influenced by the Queen Anne era, which was different from Webb’s designs.
Jack worked in wood but designed for a lot of different materials like stain-glass, mosaics, and cast-ons. He was very talented in wood carving and later became a professor at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London. He is also the author of The Fine Art Society Story.
What I like about his occasional table is that it’s really cute, and slender. It looks delicate and beautiful, but it’s strong. I want to make my table top something like that, but it’s my first semester here and I don’t know if I’m capable of it.
Rodel, Kevin P., Binzen, Jonathan. Arts & Crafts Furniture: From Classic To Contemporary. Newtown, CT: The Taunton Press, Inc., 2003. 24. eBook.
"Occasional Table." The Victorian Web. Web. 30 Sept 2010.
Designer: George Washington Jack (1855-1932)
Manufacturer and retailer: Morris & Co.c. 1885
31 inches (78.5 cm) diameter; 27 inches (68.5 cm) high
Mahogany with central sunflower carved boss and 'pie-crust' top and six carved legs
Exhibited: London, The Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, 1889
Juste Aurèle Meissonier (1695–1750) was a French goldsmith, sculptor, painter, architect, and furniture designer. His style is mainly Rococo, but to the extreme. He loved to crowd every foot of his designs with floral motifs. He built on Oppenordt’s designs, and was also influenced by a Dutch silversmith, Adam van Vianen.Meissonier is a goldsmith, and he makes pieces like candlestick holders and chandeliers. I am not sure if he builds his own furniture designs. But his metal pieces looks just as complex as his furniture pieces.Meissonier designed King Louis XV’s bed chambers and cabinets in 1724. His designs are not massed produced, but were very popular. His approach to architecture was the same as furniture, however, since a building was large, he was able to fit in more motifs, and for a furniture piece, he wanted to fit in as many motifs and couldn’t so his furniture was very busy and wasn’t as successful as his buildings.
I really like his sofa designs, but his table design was too chunky. He is a fantastic goldsmith, and his sculptures are really gorgeous. I love the asymmetry, curves, and his use of gold in his furniture designs.
"Juste-Aurele Meissonier." Chicago, Illinois: Britannica Encyclopedia, 2010. Web.
Sofa - Juste Aurele Meissonnier (1735)
Chair - Juste Aurele Meissonnier (1730)
Gilles-Marie Oppenordt was a French designer (decorator) and architect for the king. He had a very distinct Rococo style. He is a Dutch born in Paris in 1639 from a line of ébéniste, commonly known as cabinetmakers. His influences included his father who worked for the Louvre Palace in Paris for King Henry IV. He also studied Baroque sculptural ornaments in Rome and idealized Bernini, an Italian artist and Italian architects, Borromini and Pirro Ligorio.
His furniture designs are very elaborate and he studied artists, he was an admirable draftsman. His designs are of the Rococo period, and there are a lot of leaves and curves in his designs. His designs are also asymmetrical.
Oppenordt was a designer and architect, and most likely did not build his designs. However Gabriel Huquier, and engraver and portrait artist engraved some of Oppenordt’s designs.
Oppenordt was a very important figure in the development of the Rococo style. The Rococo style was basically the Baroque style but styled more towards nature, with an emphasis on asymmetry and foliage, and a light hearted feel. He was a very well known designer and published two of his design books; the Grand Oppenord and the Petit Oppenord. He also wrote another book called the L'Art décoratif du 18 siècle (Paris, 1888).
He was very big on the Rococo style, so his interior designs of buildings were just the same; it was all very elaborate and crowed with flowers, leaves and curves.
Oppenordt was a great designer and I love his work. I love the Rococo style; I think it is the most elegant and feminine of all the styles. It is just so pretty. And I adore the cabriole legs on the furniture. I want to put cabriole legs on my projects, because I think they’re really cute.
Hercules Clock by A.C. Boulle and Gilles-Marie Oppenord, c. 1712, loaned by Paris Musée des Arts et Metiers. Cheremetiev Cabinet, Hermitage Museum (Photo: Paul Paradis)
Paradis, Paul. "Paris Art Market Buzz: A Boullienne Fantasy." Beth Arnold: Letter from Paris. Beth Arnold , 25 Jan 2010. Web. 01 Sept 2010.
Ornamental Motifs - LineEdward Pearce Casey Fund from http://www.metmuseum.org
Rococo Chairs - from http://www.hedleyshumpers.com/furniture.html
If you post pictures on the blog, you need to put the artist, title, date, and where you found the image-- not just random uncredited images. I recognize the tire buddha below as being by an Estonian artist I met in Finland, Villu Jaanisoo. When you use an image, you need to include all the credit information!
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Besides the symposium I got to work with an artist Stephanie Rothenberg with her art show, Best Practices in Banana Time....where she stages a talk show in SecondLife and at the same time in real life time. My job was to be the camera person in secondlife. At the same time while preparing for Stephanie's show I was also participating with digital media's red cross project a few of CADRE's student which includes me decided to showcase the red cross backpack at the zero1 fair. Our job was to fix up the red cross backpack and getting it ready for Zero1 street fair. Even though the symposium was not what I would hoped it to be, but over all i had an amazing experience and I am very grateful to be apart of something special.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Walter Adolph Georg Gropius (May 18, 1883 – July 5, 1969) was a German Architect who was known as the founder of the Bauhaus School which specialized in fine arts and crafts. Gropius, along with other architects such as Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe and Le Corbusier were known as the pioneers of modern architecture design.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Finally getting my last post up at the very last minute. I did the research weeks ago but as I seriously dislike blogging I just couldn’t bring myself to type it all up and then I lost my notes and had to start all over. Alas. Anyhow…tonight’s topic is pyrography. While it’s something I’ve been doing since I was eleven (although I generally refer to it as woodburning) I’d never really given any thought to it’s origins, history, or contemporary place in the art world—it was something fun to do that smelled good and looked nice when I was done. But Steve mentioned that the frame I had burned looked like Victorian pyrography and it’s been at the back of head to take a look and see what that was all about and this is as good of an excuse as any so here we go.
Right. First off is a definition for those new to the concept. It’s exactly what one would guess—writing with fire. Or drawing with heat. It can be done all sorts of surfaces: wood, leather, and some papers are my favorites. These days a nice, civilized, plugs-into-the-wall heating device is used like a pen to burn the desired design onto something.
Now into the history of it all. This article was the most informative and really quite interesting (although a lot of the links on the last page that I really wanted to follow seem to be outdated now). I especially liked that it included an example of a piece from before 700 A.D.. It would seem that people have been burning designs into things for rather a long time ( I kept coming across references to early Egyptian and African work, but nobody seemed to want to give me any details and actual examples....). I found a neat bit about Chinese pyrography dating back to the Han Dynasty (which I vaguely remember from an Asian Art History course as being a very long time ago indeed) here. But in terms of more recent Western art it stated out as something called pokerwork (which amuses me to no end)--so called because it was done by sticking the poker into the fire until it glowed and then using it to draw until it cooled down and had to be reheated to continue. A nice wee bit regarding that can be found here (this one was more detailed--speculating about the early use of heated needles for detail work, etc., but the site was kind of a pain to access--you have to take survey first...) The Victorian Era saw the invention of a benzine-fueled tool that made the process easier and the ladies magazines that popularized it. Factories sprung up to mass produce the stuff (w/ heated plates) and lots of neat things like this came into being.
Here are a couple of magazine/blog links I found on the topic (in terms of modern usage). They have forums and patterns and pretty pictures:
This guy put up a nice walk-you-through-the-basics site--I agree with most everything he had to say and as I don't have any step-by-step documentation we'll go with his....
Lastly, for anybody who wants to play too, here’s where I got my much-loved woodburner (although a soldering iron is a nice, cheap place to start….):
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Friday's symposium that we attended as a class was a mixed bag.
My least favorite talk of the whole day was the Climate Clock group presentations. Maybe it was just me, but it was a bit uninteresting and a lot of it just went over my head. They didn't explain themselves thoroughly and used a ton of jargon as if they were only amongst other architects, engineers, scientist. In my opinion that wasn't even the worst part! The worst part was their lack of passion. You would think they would being selling you this wonderful idea that they invested a whole lot of their time and creative abilities masterminding, but all I got was a group of monotone presenters that seemed as bored as some of the audience.
The symposium really started to get me interested and excited for the rest of Zero1 during the presentations of “Particle Falls” and “Floating World”. To actually hear the artist talk about their work and explain the concepts behind the instillations was great.
Jade Chang's talk was by far the highlight of the symposium. After hearing some people discuss their projects, it was awesome to have someone to urge us to get out there and create something of our own. I loved the idea of making playful art that is thought provoking and inspiring. The examples given were fun and ingenious.
I unfortunately( or fortunately according to Shannon's description) had to skip out on the last speaker in order to get home , do some homework, and get ready for Absolute Zero. If you missed that event I'll have to describe how incredibly amazing it was.
The interactive art made me feel like a small child. I was giddy from the amount and variety of things to do and see. One of the best times I've had at a festival and most everything was free. An unexpected delight was the street food court comprised of cooks from all over the bay. Vegan ceviche and al pastor tostadas?! Vegan or not, everything was delicious.
Here's some of Absolute Zero
Friday, November 12, 2010
Sunday, October 3, 2010
It should come as no surprise to anybody reading this that I study stuff. All kinds of stuff. One of the things that I am really facinated about is how old things go on to become old. I used to live in a 1909 Craftsman House and always wondered if the builders really thought about what it would be like as it aged. I suspect they didn't really put much thought into how it would survive and focused more on how it should be. In regards to the basement foundation, modern convience additions, long term material availablity and some other issues, I wish they had put a little more thought into what the future might entail but I think they did okay. One of my favorite buildings in San Jose is the Old Church of Christ Science on the north side of St. James Park. Beautiful Neo-Classical architecture example from the 1890's, massive collums and a central dome. City engineer says at this point all that is holding it up is the termites holding hands.
The builders of that, like the builders of my old house, probably didn't think about what 100 years in the future would look like. I suspect that they would be quite surprised to find their Neo-Classical church covered up in plywood and surrounded by a cyclone fence. When I asked, if wholly by the slim chance, Diridon should end up not being a destination in 100 years, instead of getting the artists/scientist's take, I got the bureaucrat. Having spent a decade of my life being a much more intimidating bureaucrat than she, I was less than impressed with her party line adherence that Diridon would always be a destination. While I don't actually doubt her, I don't care, and wanted to know what the artists thought about how the work would last and stand on its own. Bureaucrats are easy to access, artists are less so. In the end, we all don't know what the future will entail and my question was lost amongst the shuffle of my property taxes towards the cause. I support the arts daily and I'm noticing that my city is rarely operating in my best interest. I will support the project if not it's keepers...though my tax dollars go to support them as well. Curious that. Might be worth a letter to the Mercury News after all.
Jade Chang was awesome and witty. In pulling my notes out for this write up I found her blog information and will make a point of following that. Out of all the talks, I found hers to be the most rational and adhere best to the theme of Zero 1. To recap, she covered random acts of public improvements through art. Some were nefarious, like the modification of a freeway sign for greater clarity by a muralist with an adgenda. Some were just for fun, like the piano stair project. I too find myself wondering how I can make the world a better place through a random act of artistic kindness...sounds just too delicious of a concept to entertain through my sometimes larcenous but well intentioned heart. Keeping my eyes open but I must admit, the beauty would be to DO something and never tell a soul that you had made some or many people's lives a little better. Keeping my eye on Ms. Chang in the future. Good stuff....thanks to Shannon for letting us experience Zero 1!
Friday, October 1, 2010
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Of course, artists aren't necessarily entertainers, and there's a reason artistic/instructional presentations aren't called performances. Artists have numerous (sometimes contradictory) responsibilities expect of them, some of which have legal force behind them, such as plagiarism and copyright infringements. Demanding artists create entertainment along with material that moves or improves the human state isn't realistic. Indeed, since a great many things that we need desperately aren't likely to be entertaining at all (undergoing surgery comes to mind), insisting art be "fun" while it is trying to perform far loftier goals would be petulantly foolish.
However, I think it safe to say that art, well, should be fun dammit. Learning new concepts is vastly easier when its entertaining. This is true when its presented through impersonal book form, and even more so when an engaging teacher becomes involved. In order to work art has to connect with the viewer, to get inside them somehow and cause change. Boring art (despite what, as a pun, that would imply) doesn't do that very well. In my experience in fact, boring art creates its own barriers limiting its absorption by the audience. Things that bore and disappoint can create hostility directed back at them.
In a situation in which artistic presentations are also calls for funding or action by the public, disinterest could not be more lethal. Yet some of the speakers created painfully monotone reports and slide-shows that would likely disappoint corportate middle-managers. I'm sorry, but the first segment of Friday, proposing an ingenious bio-mechanical clock/park based upon the cult-classic film Silent Running, was one of the most boring lectures I've ever attended. (And once took an astronomy class as a city college.)
When the issues are this important, and the entertaining distractions around your audience as numerous as they are today, presenters can afford to assume their audience is educated and patient, they can not afford to drone.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
The first speaker on Thursday morning, Dr. Kathleen Moore, is a philosophy professor at the University of Oregon. I found her presentation particularly interesting because she discussed the moral obligation of why we should strive to protect the planet, and how we as artists can help in the translation process of the hard science to the general public. This presentation particularly resonated with me because I often get sort of "why should we care" questions. For example, when I was doing research for a project about endangered species, I often would get the question "isn't extinction a natural process?" The answer I always give is yes extinction is a natural normal process, however we are a species are speeding up the process, which then brings up the moral (key word here) question of are we OK with being the cause? This goes well with Dr. Moore's argument that we have a moral obligation.
I will briefly discuss a point that I thought was interesting that the second speaker touched upon. Gail Wright did a fairly straight forward lecture of various different types of approaches to environmental and eco art by different artists. She got a variety of questions towards the end of presentation, many of which circled why it was necessary for artists to be doing many of their projects, and why they were working with scientists to put together many of their projects. One thing that Gail said that stuck with me was when she said that artists seem to be getting grants (which are sometimes government money) to be doing what the government should actually be doing.
Thursday started with the presentations and a panel from the Climate Clock artists. The Climate Clock project is an interesting project in so far as they are trying to address climate change by creating something that will last at least one hundred years. I had heard one of the groups talk about their presentation before, the Wired Wilderness project. They are taking a very different approach from the other two projects, which in some ways are more traditional in their approach to what will eventually be public art. The Wire Wilderness project is more of a platform for multiple art projects or events, one each year by a different artist for the next hundred years, dealing with data from a UC research center. All of the ideas were intellectually interesting, though I am not sure any of them really stood out for me. It was interesting because they get many questions about how they were dealing with the data, and how their projects were "iconic" (one of the things the project was meant to be). Like politicians, the artists would often dodge the question and in my opinion stay to their "talking points." I would be inclined to attribute that to the fact that all of these artist groups have been working on their projects for almost two years and are probably very close to their ideas.
After the presentations were over, a discussion of whether the money (an estimated 15-20 million dollars) would be better spent directly on schools, etc, to affect more direct behavior change. I have not come to a satisfactory conclusion for that question myself. I on the one hand come from a science background, and have worked in government. There is so much red tape and money chasing that it is a miracle that anything ever gets done. Therefore, being an artist does allow for freedom to play and be a cultural changer that being in government does not always provide. On the other hand, as an artist one has to be realistic about how many people outside the art community are aware of what is going on inside the art world. Unless it is public or commercial art, many people do not have access to much of the art that gets created. Another issue is that public art often gets so watered down that does it really get any worthwhile message across to the public? And as an artist dealing with complex scientific concepts, how much can you water them down before they are no longer valid? I think any artist who is dealing with climate change as their platform are going to run into all of these issues and more.
Maybe the solution is for the government to just be run by artists. Can't be any more dysfunctional than it already is.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Green Me idea of having a resident artist every year for 100 years was interesting as well although exact implementation of this was something I missed. Their plan does seem the easiest to get started although the works produced over the years would have to have someplace to be stored/displayed properly unless all the artists were restricted to a specific space. Each artist having to fit their idea into a predetermined form would make each creation uniform and unique at the same time.
Two things that stood out to me that appliy to each group: I really didn't hear much about the use of recycled materials or if people would actually do more than just view the works that will be produced. I thought some form of community interaction with the climate clock program would be interesting.
In the evening I was a part of a group of fellow students who set up a booth for the street festivities. We displayed and talked about a project we worked on in our 106 class last semester for the Red Cross Wearable art contest. The designs we created were design finalists and we got to attend the Red Cross hero's Gala for 2010. The two outfits were a red cross backpack and a solar panel skirt with camera vest and LCD display bag. I really enjoyed talking to people about the outfits and the ideas behind them. A lot of people stopped to talk and ask questions over the course of the evening. I also attended the Greenprix the next had helped some of my professors with their green vehicle the Slo-Dog. It was a vehicle that used people peddling to power its tow vehicle and a hot dog cooker. There were a lot of cool vehicles there and unfortunately I did not get a chance to walk around much to learn more about the other vehicles.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
This year’s symposium focused on the issues concerning environment, policy-making, urban planning, sustainable design, and related practices by artists and scientists. It brought a number of great speakers over a 2-day event. I’ve attended the most of it except the panel discussion on the first day due to class - which was a shame as a list of panelists looked interesting! (Did anyone attend this? If yes, how was it?)
Day 1 was run by LEONARD. As I was already familiar with their style (I go to their speaker series at SETI in Mt. View periodically), it was predominated by a perspective from scientists and technologists. Regardless, overall I thought LEONARD and CADRE complimented each other very well over the course of a 2-day event.
All speakers presented his or her expertise on the issues with passion, which was informative and very inspiring (although the problem and idea was nothing new.) But it certainly made me feel good to be part of this - the experience of being there and made me feel even more strong about the issues as an artist and a human being.
Day 2 was hosted by the CADRE Laboratory for New Media in the School of Art and Design at SJSU. I was particularly intrigued by the panel discussion by the Climate Clock teams, which was medicated by Joel Slayton and the focus was around their design strategies. They were posed hard questions (by Joel) and I was curious about their responses as well as enjoyed watching how each team interacted as a group and between teams (but ultimately as a competitor), etc.
Prior to the panel discussion, there was also a great introduction about the Climate Clock initiative by the Public Art Director for the City of San Jose Office of Cultural Affairs, Barbara Goldstein which helped me to understand better from a different angle (a big picture), followed by the presentations by each group which was still work in progress so it was a little bit hard to visualize clearly (but seeing them up on stage was helpful).
One of the Climate Clock teams, Amorphic Robot Works (Chico MacMurtrie, Geo Homsy, Bill Washabaugh, and Gideon Shapiro) also showcased a gigantic sculpture “Inflatable Architectural Growth during the festival on the First Street for Absolute ZERO (and held days of workshop at South Hall). I had a chance to talk to Chico and met his team members during Absolute ZERO and I was totally impressed by their robotic artwork as well as their teamwork. Looking forward to working with them when they will begin their residencies at SJSU and Montalvo Art Center in January.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Decades ago, a respectable fine artist would never be so crass as to have a message. The coercion and psychological manipulation of people to change their behavior or buy certain products was the territory of commercial artists – those who sold their talent to the advertising trade. Propagandists. Mad Men. This was art that had a single overriding communications objective. And it did not hang in museums.
Not anymore. Today we expect art to have content, purpose, a reason to exist. Activism and servitude to a cause are once again acceptable inspirations for art making – similar to periods in history when artists served the Church or State. Artists worldwide are talking, singing, writing, and painting about humanity’s drift towards disaster.
The environment is a big theme across the arts these days. Having an environmental conscience is fast becoming de riguer for visual artists, especially if their livelihoods include public grants.
The result has been the development of guild-like communities of co-creators, a focus on multimedia, interdisciplinary explorations, and the use of the spectator as a critical component of the art itself. Furthermore, eco art is not restricted to the hallowed walls of museums and galleries. In fact, it is often displayed out in the community, where it is more accessible to the public.
One positive thing to come of this greening of the arts is the increased dialog between artists and scientists. The scientific community believes the arts have a major role to play in saving the planet. Artists can translate scientific jargon so that it’s easier to post on Twitter or Shutterfly.
Artists can not save the world, but perhaps they can remind us that it is possible to make a difference.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
To bring this around to the ultimate objective of the focus on a specific designer, it is this age that we are living in right now, and the subsequent five to ten decades that I’d like you to consider as woodworkers. Woodworking is about shaping this curious material (wood) in unique and interesting ways with sharp objects (most often metal blades). While a simplification that is the core of what we explore when we consider ourselves woodworkers, not long ago the subject of machine vs. hand transformed the art. If you’ve studied the Craftsman era or Arts and Crafts period in your history class, you should know that this issue was at the heart of the ideals. In the age of machine production, and in the age of machine information, the way which we shape wood is as diverse as the number of ways that we find out about how to shape it. We have begun to reach a new era in woodworking. The information that comes to us is no longer passed from parent to child or from master to apprentice, but from many directions and influences. What was once the “one true way” has given to a blur of methods and approaches that in my opinion have become as daunting as and figuratively louder than the noise that any power tool can make.
In October 2009, one of the last furniture designers in England that could trace his apprenticeship and subsequent mastery to the Arts and Crafts movement passed away at the age of 76. Here in the United States, there wasn’t much notice, even among master craftsmen. He was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1990 for his contributions to English furniture building techniques and designs, and is considered one of the founding fathers of the British Craft Revival of the 1970’s. A quote from the London Sunday times at the time of his passing speaks deeply to his philosophy: “The simple forms in Japanese vernacular architecture and furniture reinforced his background in the Arts and Crafts movement and nudged him more firmly towards an exploration of the beauty of the material. He began to enjoy and explore the unpredictable and beautiful figure of wood as an important part of the design but continued to make more humble pieces appropriate to production in numbers. One of his simplest pieces, a comfortable chapel chair, was made from pit-prop-grade ash for economy. It was never his motive to make objects of art, simply to produce beautiful pieces of furniture, on which he was happy to stamp his name.”
As furniture designers have come and gone over the last 50 years or so, Peters’ work stands out in that it speaks to the tradtion of Arts and Crafts visual honesty in construction methodology, but also gives a nod to the modern esthetic. Like his, turn of the century, influences in the Craftsman movement, he paid particular attention to the esthetic quality of Japanese joinery, line and form. That attention influenced his later work and to my eye gives both a cleaner and uncluttered line and a visual beauty. Over the course of his career, he traveled to Japan on many occasions to work with traditional Japanese carpenters, study furniture, temples and joinery techniques. The Arts and Crafts, like the Art Deco movement that followed it, combined many different styles and there is often some “Oriental” (as it was often mentioned at the turn of the century) detail or nuance that was added to a more traditional European piece to give it greater character or clarity. In the example above, AlanPeter’s design for a music stool from the late 1970’s, the seat of the stool itself functions to place the musician slightly forward in balance allowing for clearance of a woodwind instrument but also is reminiscent in line of Japanese ceiling beam architecture in the 1860’s.
In the November 2009 article of Popular Woodworking, Peter’s is remembered by his friend Rob Cosman, who also was the American editor of Alan Peter’s master woodworking video series. Peter’s apprenticeship to Arts and Crafts furniture designer Edward Barnsley, not just shaped his career but formed a thoughtful methodolgy and apprach to problem solving that allowed him to use the right tool for the subject at hand. Says Cosman, “He probably did the best job of combining hand tools, power tools, design and business,” Cosman also said, adding that Peters worked “with a precision and speed that nobody else could.” The video series is available at http://popularwoodworking.com and some samples of his techniques are available in the public domain both there and on Youtube.
One of the many charters that we as students have is to discern the way a process is done, repeat the process such that we understand the peculiar nuances of it, and then modify that process for repeatablity and the eventual possibility that we may someday impart that process to others. As I am sure you have already begun to experience, in both the wood shop and in life, there are many different ways to approach a problem, large amounts of useful and questionable advice, that all things can end up being prey to uncertainty, and that when called upon to teach, the students are only partly engaged if at all. Whenever someone passes away, regardless of if you knew them or not, even the potential knowledge that they had is no longer in reach. Each subtle nuance and technique that the person had is no longer available. Because we can’t exactly catalog the human experience, we accept that the information is just gone with that individual. We have come into an age where the human experience is confrmed by the massive amount of digital reference available to us pretty much on demand. What we are losing is the human connection. The Internet will be there for us whenever we wish. People, are only with us for the shadow of a moment and when they are gone, the knowledge they had, useful and not is gone as well.
While I was in England, I missed an opportunity to study with Alan Peters at an afternoon seminar in Chichester by a few hours due to a miscommunication and bad transit decision. At the time I thought that I would have ample opportunity to return back to England again and catch one of his seminars again. I had a large list of questions in my notebook, one on Donbouri sharpening techniques, one on Japanese handplane choices, another on how to spot a good quality Japenese chisel set. While I can certainly have these questions answered, they will never be answered by him. We learn something when people pass on. Don’t wait to ask. Do not hesitate to ask, even if you feel foolish. Accept that the person that is there to instruct you has likely forgotten more about woodworking than you might ever know and that you might ask a question that will remind them about something that they have forgotten, important or not. This is a human experience, be connected to it for as long as you are able.
Friday, September 10, 2010
tea trolley 900
Bent birch plywood, tile, rattan.
Made in Finland by Artek.
"Objects are made to be completed by the human mind." -Alvar Aalto
Aalto invented a process for bending thick layers of birch into gracefully curved loops to create strong, light frames for a number of products, including his famous tea trolleys. For easy movement, these charming and highly functional pieces have large white wheels with black rubber tread that won’t mar floors. The handle and edge banding are solid birch. The Tea trolleys serve as highly functional and distinctive additions to a dining room or hospitality area. Introduced at the 1937 Paris World’s Fair, they are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.
Alvar Aalto was a highly talented architect and an eager spokesman for the international modernist movement. Aalto's designs were innovative and radical and became known for his experimental approach to bending wood, which greatly influenced American designers Charles & Ray Eames and Finnish-born Eero Saarinen. His style became known as humanist modernism. Alvar Aalto's dialogue with nature, architecture, design and the human being has become a living legacy.
Tea Trolley 900 features a birch frame in either natural lacquer or lacquered white with black or white ceramic tiles and rattan basket.
35.4" w | 25.6" d | 23.6" h
Structural architecture has always been of my interest; in particular, 19th Century European architecture. One of the most important architects of the 19th and 20th centuries was Otto Wagner (1841-1918). Wagner’s work represented the historicism period of the mid 19th century to the start of the modernism of the 20th century. Most interesting was the way in which he replaced traditional building designs for modern yet simpler building structures. He encouraged modern architecture for that new era and along those lines he defined modern forms. “Modern forms must correspond to new materials, contemporary needs, if they are to be found suitable for mankind today. (Wagner)” Some of his modern form projects included museums, parliament buildings and urban plans, which employed new materials such as glass, steel, and aluminum. One of his most important projects involved the design of the Imperial Entrance Hall of the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. He introduced his design as a combination of three-dimensional gilded model presentation and an intricate presentation in watercolors and drawings. Even though his design was never approved he continued to refine his concept through his drawings that echoed his evolving modernism. Overall, Wagner’s ideas have lead me to think out of the box and draw inspiration from 19th century building structures, as well as those more modern and functional building structures.
Warren Platner uses very simply designs and lines in his creations. His furniture is simple and can be liked by many because they go with any style and any taste. There are some details that he incorporates to give it just a little extra show, but overall he keeps his looks clean and never over the top.
He likes to combine wood works with metals, thick wires, and very this glass to make a bold presence. His style is very big, which allows one to use one of his products for many different things, but in all it makes the piece stand out with its size as well as its simplicity, but also the bolder accents.
Deacon uses a wide variety of materials, from wood to polycarbonate and leather to ceramics, but for the sake of this class, I will consider one of his wood sculptures.
Quick, 2009. Chêne et acier. 180 × 622 × 231 cm. Strasbourg, Musée d’Art moderne et contemporain. Photo : Ken Adlard
Steel joints brace this piece entitled "Quick," allowing the wood to move in ways that might not happen naturally. "Organic …. and engineered," this piece makes an indirect connection between manufactured objects and biological forms because it's a little bit of both at several levels (movement, materials, techniques, etc.). More specifically, Deacon explores how material and construction techniques interact to delve into dualities of meaning at a subjective level. He says a lot about the modern world through the relationships at play in his work.
You can see his techniques and materials very clearly so that his process becomes part of the meaning of his pieces:
His sculptures never seek to hide technical operations behind them, including assemblage, riveting, torsion, stretching, folding or strapping…His process starts with drawing but it always moves into industry fabrication. In the piece above, the wood was "steam(ed), then clamped and strapped onto metal and assembled using a system of metal fixtures."
Deacon's sculptures relates to furniture-making in that they interact with the space around them and they usually interact with a lot of tension:
...beholders clearly sense themselves in the force field between the sculpture and the surrounding space, and walking around the object search for views inside or through the object and the inner spaces enclosed by the sculpture as immaterial shapes, and for an immanent principle of order.More dualities that are cited about Deacon’s sculptures include "the struggle between chaos and order [and the struggle] between formlessness and rigorous structure."
I think it's amazing how much can be said once techniques are mastered and then all mashed up with a variety of materials. It is inspiring to learn about someone who constantly explores his options in order to get exactly what he wants.