Inspiring Chairs

I’ve made furniture in the past, and still do on occasion, but I do not consider myself a furniture maker.  I have made exactly one kind of chair in the past, present and future, but definitely do not consider myself a chair maker notwithstanding being at the halfway point of teaching a six-day Gragg chairmaking workshop in the barn attic. In reality I might just be an old coot with a lot of tools and wood in my dream shop located in Shangri-la.

That said, recently while waiting for some wax to melt I pulled down the book 1000 Chairs from the shelf for the first time in many, many years, perhaps fifteen, but certainly not since moving here almost a decade ago.

I had not remembered that a Gragg chair was the first offering in the book.  It was a bit of a surprise, to be honest.  It’s not the top-of-the-line Gragg chair like we are composing this week but is a beauty anyhow.

As I browsed through the book I found a number of chairs that intrigued me, but only a few that interested me enough to consider making them.  One of the first of these was this recliner by Josef Hoffman, whose vocabulary should be much more widespread throughout the design/craft community.

One of my all time favorite designers is Charles Rennie Mackintosh, I find captivating his work in almost any form.  I keep thinking that the pair of white wardrobe cabinets from Hill House(?) might make some mighty nice tool cabinets.  And, some of his chairs have been eating at me for decades, beginning with the receptionist’s chair and his many iterations of dining chairs.  I’ve even got the idea that I could somehow merge the influences of Stickley and Mackintosh into the same KD chair.  It would be interesting to try,  although some of the later Prairie Style stuff comes pretty close.

I have always loved classical Chines furniture, none more than the “horseshoe” chair.  Hans Wegner’s interpretation of the form is almost to good to believe.  But that could be said about much that Wegner designed.

Returning to the theme of (laminated?) bentwood chairs is the chaise from Alvar Aalto.  Sublime.

Closing out this romp through chairs I might make some day is Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona chairs (always presented in pairs).  The challenge is, could these metal structural elements be reproduced in bentwood?

Just stuff to think about as I try envisioning cool projects in the future.  My mom lived to almost 104 and kept her wits until her last few days, so I figure I might have another 35 years of woodworking left in me.

A Fascinating Merger Of Design And Technology

Since before I was an architecture student in the mid-70s (never finished, they changed the curriculum to something I did not like nor want) I have been fascinated with the problems of design for human consumption and beyond in the realm of architecture, space, and accessories therein.  Even my later managerial training aptitude testing identified me as an INTP in the Myers-Briggs vernacular, or as one of our instructors phrased it, “The architect of ideas.”  And things, be they furniture or houses or rockets, are the manifestation of ideas.

The video here was an eye-opener for me.  I hope you find it as fascinating as I did.  When the time comes for Mrs. Barn and me to eventually design and obtain our geezer house I wonder if this will be part of the discussion

Like Howard Roarke being consumed with the problem of efficient mass housing – he cared only for the technical problem and was indifferent to the residents or the patrons – I am fascinated by the integration of tomorrow’s technology with ongoing universal needs.  Despite being mostly concerned with historicity and historic artifacts I have no quarrel with modern technology other than its increasing encroachment to the detriment of “quality of life,” for example the telecom revolution enabling the creation of the suffocating Surveillance State.  (It might be worth noting that “quality of life” is primarily a psychological term; “standard of living” refers to the practical choices available to a person depending on their circumstantial and material assets).  Technology is morally neutral, and the only reason it is problematic is that we are fallen creatures living in an amoral, immoral, or even anti-moral culture.

That said, the idea of a robust origami house is way cool.