Category Archives: Designer’s Alphabet

Designer’s Alphabet, W is for ……

Bluets, Photo by Geo Walker

Bluets, Photo by Geo Walker

durer wonder – as in a sense of wonder. Most children have it, but adults let it slip away like wind driven clouds. You may experience wonder peering through a microscope, yet it isn’t something you can pin down and dissect. Wonder lies at the heart of every creative work and gives us the great gift of living in the moment. Intoxicating like a drug yet without the ill affects, wonder draws us into our true inner core. Wonder sparks that adrenalin rush when creative ideas surge as though driven by a storm. It lurks unexpected waiting to surprise us. A walk in an abandoned orchard and the chance glimmer of an heirloom rose peeking out from the bramble; crisp peels of thunder not dampened by four walls; a line of poetry that tosses ice water on our slumbering thoughts.

Every once in a while folks write about the difference between art and craft, or try to define some boundary between them. That may be a fools errand in today’s world  but it is certain that some creative works lift themselves, defying gravity with some invisible inner force.  I know my own opinions might be pigeonholed as naive and dated, but to my mind the one thing that elevates a work is wonder. It may be found in the simplest of everyday craft objects like a wooden spoon carved from a crooked mountain laurel branch, or a painting that captures sunlight glowing through a breaking wave.

While you are making new years resolutions, resolve to nurture your sense of wonder. Feed it by giving space to the part of you that still is capable of awe and starve those soul killing distractions that threaten to swallow us.

How will you nurture your sense of wonder in 2014?

George R. Walker

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Designer’s Alphabet, U is for …..

Some urn forms from Benjamin Asher

Some urn forms from Benjamin Asher

durer-latin-v

This Latin V was used for both U and V.

is for urn. This is an example of cross pollination between furniture, architecture, and related decorative arts. The urn or vase form goes far back into pre-history in the ancient world from the clay vessels used for the for a wide range of uses from the utilitarian to the ceremonial. The variety of urn shapes is uncountable and were perhaps the first craft medium to explore graceful curved lines. Urn’s  show up in many furniture designs both as turned objects like decorative finials, but also expressed as a

From the Index of American Design

From the Index of American Design

profile like this vase shaped back splat on a Queen Anne Chair.  If you have a nice example of an urn form integrated into a furniture design, send along a photo to georgewalker.design@gmail.com  I’ll add it to this post.

George R. Walker

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Designer’s Alphabet, T is for ……………

tansu wiki

durer-latin-tansu, a name covering a wide range of traditional Japanese storage chests. Often associated with portable movable furniture, tansu chests developed into specialized forms for use on merchant ships, carrying swords, lock boxes for securing valuables, as well as storing clothing. In addition tansu chests were sometimes organized into a stair-step configuration to double as access to upper floors of a home. Tansu chests often use asymmetrical drawer and door layouts and bold decorative hardware. Here’s a link where you can see more examples of traditional Tansu chests.

George R. Walker

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Designer’s Alphabet, S is for …………..

sector

View showing the front and backside of a sector. Note the variety of scales for calculating different types of problems.

sector

Sheraton includes several drawings showing the sector in use with a pair of dividers.

durer-latin-sector, also called by the French, the compass of  proportion. Sectors were the pre-industrial equivalent of a slide rule or a modern calculator. Prior the 19th century, geometry was the dominant means of resolving mathematical problems and the sector was applied to a wide range of applications from navigating the worlds oceans to plotting the trajectory of a cannon ball. Essentially it’s a pair of dividers with matching scales on each leg. All points along each leg has a matching point on the opposite, making every pair of points proportionally related to every other pair. Jim Tolpin has written about making and using a sector as a handy tool for simple layouts at the workbench. Both Jim and I have scoured historic craft literature to determine if sectors were actually used by tradesmen. They were common in drafting kits used by surveyors, and architects, but the only clear reference so far has been it’s inclusion in Thomas Sheratons The Cabinet-maker and Upholsterer’s Drawing-book : in four parts (1802). Sheratons focus on the tool seems to be more towards drawing than woodworking, so it’s conjecture to assume that craftsmen may have used them at the workbench. Still, I look at my Stanley folding rule and see essentially a quick and dirty sector for quick layouts. These folding rules were common in tool inventories and it’s not much of a stretch to think they might have been used in layouts at the bench. If you do run across any mention of a sector in use from historic craft literature, please let me know.

George R. Walker

DSCN3610

I use my two foot folding rule for a crude but effective sector at my workbench.

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Designer’s Alphabet, R is for ………

Continuous wave pattern by James Gibbs.

Continuous wave pattern by James Gibbs meant for a picture frame moulding.

durer-latin-ris for Running Dog, also called a Vitruvian Scroll. A running dog is a continuous pattern like a wave or geometric layout usually adorning the flat surface of a frieze. Carved running dog patterns show up in endless variety on fireplace mantels, picture frames, architectural friezes, as well as furniture. If you have a picture of a stray running dog carving, send it to georgewalker.design@gmail.com and I’ll add it to this post.      George R. Walker

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Designer’s Alphabet, Q is for …….

quaintfurniturec00walt_0014

durer-latin-qis for quaint. A trade name for a number of lines of furniture produced by the Stickley Brothers in Grand Rapids Michigan. They began using the name “Quaint Mission”, attached to a line of mission inspired furniture and then subsequently used the term as a brand to market lines of factory made furniture under the names Quaint Arts & Crafts, Quaint Tudor, Quaint Manor, and finally Quaint American. Here’s a link to a Quaint catalogue from the early 20th century. Quaint

Note – Thanks to Donna Hill for helping me find a solution to the letter “Q”. I decided to forgo the ubiquitous “Queen Anne” since according to Jack Plane at Pegs and Tails, we Americans cannot keep our Queens (or kings) straight.

George R. Walker

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Designer’s Alphabet, P is for …………

praxis

durer-latin-perdix, also known as Talus or Calus. A Greek mythological figure, the nephew of Daedalus a skilled craftsman. Perdix apprenticed to Daedalus and under his tutelage was credited with the invention of the first saw fashioned from the backbone of a fish. He also attached two branches of metal together with a rivet on one end and sharp points on the business end to craft the first pair of dividers.

Daedalus burned with jealousy at his inventive nephew and pushed him off a towering cliff. Athena came to the young inventors rescue and turned him into a partridge before his body was dashed against the rocks below.

Grey Partridge (Perdix - perdix)

Grey Partridge (Perdix – perdix)

Which is why we will never know the secret behind the saw nib.

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Designer’s Alphabet, M is for…………

Photo by the Author from the collection of the Detroit Institute of Art.

durer-latin-mLouis Majorelle (1859 – 1926) a French furniture designer and manufacturer, and leading figure in the Art Nouveau style. Classically trained at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. His designs feature an organic theme often incorporating flowing plants and flowers sculpted in wood and metal, along with naturalistic themed marquetry designs that included metals and semi-precious stones. Majorelle’s factory was devastated by fire and then looted by the German army in WWI, bringing his work to a tragic end. Here’s a link to the DIA (Detroit Institute of Art) with a closer look at this cabinet.

George R. Walker

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Designers Alphabet, J is for …..

448px-PortraitInigoJones

5968bcb548cc6082fbe021c3bca3feis for Inigo Jones, b 1573, d 1652 – England’s first prominent architect. Jones had far reaching impact on furniture design by the fact that the ideas he unleashed impacted Briton and everything she touched for over 150 years. Before taking the role of Surveyor General of the King’s Works for James I, he studied in Italy and became an admirer of the work of Andrea Palladio. He introduced Palladianism to the British Isles where the English embraced this new contemporary form of classicism with a greater fervor than the Italians. A true classicist, Palladio paid homage to the past; his designs emphasized symmetry, proportions, and a reverence for the classic orders. Yet with an eye towards the future he designed country villas that broke free from the medieval fortress mentality; designing large country estates that celebrated the surrounding landscape.

Villa Godi designed by Andrea Palladio

Villa Godi designed by Andrea Palladio

The Queens House designed by Inigo Jones

The Queens House designed by Inigo Jones

On the rising tide of the British Empire this design approach spread across the globe. Although we don’t have a furniture style designated Palladian, it underpins all furniture known as Georgian, William & Mary, Queen Anne, Chippendale, and Federal. Basically everything produced during the golden age of the cabinatemaker circa 1680 – 1820 had its roots in this classical approach.

Flat top highboy, Photo by author.

Flat top highboy, Photo by author.

George R. Walker

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Designer’s Alphabet, I is for……………..

iribe

durer-latin-i

is for Paul Iribe (1883 – 1935), a multifaceted and prolific illustrator and designer in the decorative arts. His furniture designs spanned the end of the Art Nouveau and the beginning of the Art Deco movements. This chest above reflects the Art Deco but to my eye something else. Iribe as an illustrator leaned more towards the language of graphic arts. The birth of a trend that still persists today in much contemporary furniture. This is not a judgement on my part just an observation. The carving detail on the upholstered chair below formed a stylized version of a classical volute (actually a spiral and not technically a volute). It’s sort of a metaphor of a metaphor as a classical volute is a stylized depiction of a fiddlehead fern or a nautilus shell. Yet aside from that it’s a bold graphic element, again reflecting his background as an illustrator. He frequently included a rose blossom motif. Note rose blossom capitals that terminate the legs on the small table. What stands out when you look at his work?

George R. Walker

paul_iribe_gueridon_vers_1915_d5320888h

Christie’s Paris 2010

Sotheby's Paris 2010

Sotheby’s Paris 2010

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