That most improbable thing……and yet….

Peace, oil on canvas by Barb Walker

“Peace” by Barb Walker

Barb and I wish you the best blessings of Christmas.

George R. Walker

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Design Critique, need some chair help

Finished table

Finished table

It’s a common problem for a chair builder to get requests to design and build a table to compliment some chairs. Furniture builder Petri Nojonen has this dilemma flipped around. After building a contemporary table of his own design he’d like to design and build some chairs to compliment the table. We had a bit of early discussion about how to capture something that echoed the table design and avoid seating that looked like and afterthought. His first thought was to build some Welsh stick chairs inspired by Chris Schwarz. That may be a perfectly good idea but I encouraged him to think about details in the table that he could use to link them. This actually brings up a bigger question about how to link furniture pieces together. Is it enough to simply use similar wood and finish? Or should he just grab a small detail like a curve, or perhaps think about sinking a contrasting strip of wood in the seat like is used in the table top? In his first attempt he wondered if the structure under the table could be somehow built into the chair undercarriage.

Below are some details on the unique design of the table and then a look at his concept sketch for the chair design. Your thoughtful comments are welcome. Hopefully we can help him find that chair design he’s searching for.

Table has a wood and metal undercarriage

Table has a wood and metal undercarriage

 

Detail of his connection between metal rail and legs

Detail of his connection between metal rail and legs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

His jumping off inspiration for the chairs is from this Chris Schwarz Welsh Stick Chair

His jumping off inspiration for the chairs is from this Chris Schwarz Welsh Stick Chair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s Petri’s the concept sketch for the chair design.

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A worthy project and great gift for the holiday

The Thinker, by Auguste Rodin 1880 (Cleveland Museum of Art)

The Thinker, by Auguste Rodin 1880 (Cleveland Museum of Art)

What might happen if we pulled together three tribes from the furniture world that don’t often travel in the same orbit, furniture builders, conservators, and the world of furniture scholarship? The result might be a unique blend of perspective and inspiring insight. You can get all that in the inaugural issue of Mortise and Tenon Magazine now available for pre-sale. My hope is that this publication will play a vital role in keeping our craft alive and vibrant. I just purchased my copy and look forward to reading every page. Treat yourself to “issue one” of Mortise and Tenon Magazine.

 

George R. Walker

 

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Hand built woodshop

Tolpin shop

The current 2015 issue of Fine Woodworking’s “Tools and Shops” has an article about Jim Tolpin’s workshop. Here’s a link to a slide show where Jim explains how he designed the shop around the way he works. Dream Shop

Jim and I met about six years ago and quickly realized we shared an interest in traditional design. Yet we both had a different take on the tradition. I was exploring the historical fixation with whole number proportions, while Jim wondered why the human form always seemed to be at the root of a good design. Actually, both these threads are part of the same fabric. Sort of like how pitch and rhythm combine to make music. Our study has gone far beyond just reading and debating, by making our own work a reflection of this design heritage. Sort of an exercise in experimental archaeology. This shop is just that. An experiment in applying the lessons of our tradition into something both beautiful and practical. Enjoy the tour.

 

George R. Walker

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Keep your eye inspired

Three on a hill by Barb Walker

Three on a hill by Barb Walker

We are bombarded daily by thieves that rob us of creativity and dull the imagination. I could list a hundred goblins that steal but instead, I want to remind you that you can (and should) choose inspiration and wonder. Choose ocean breezes that lift the imagination and broaden the realm of ideas. Fine art is for me is one such breeze, energizing the part of me that goes numb from the daily grind.

So I find it helpful to include some ritual in my day and sprinkled throughout my week. A friend of mine who’s mind was always teaming with ideas started each morning with a Camel non-filter and a cup of strong black coffee. We are all different and my rituals includes taking a few moments to drink from the world of fine art. Here’s a link to the late Robert Genn’s Painters Keys where his voice, and his daughter Sara’s voice offers encouragement for the creative soul. You can sign up for a weekly pep talk from a master on his island of creativity. I’m also lucky to be married to an artist, my wife Barb. We talk about someday building that forever home which features a large sunlit room with her painting studio on one end and my workshop on the other. Preferably on the coast of Maine. It’s such a delight to discover how her world of composition and color intersects with my world of proportions and design. Here’s a link to her website where you can see a few of her paintings.

 

George R. Walker

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Stuck and Unstuck

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It happens at least once during every design workshop. A woodworker looks up with a grin and points to a drawing. It’s followed with a declaration that goes something like this,  “This drawing may not look like much to you, but for me this is a breakthrough. I just pulled this simple design together in ten minutes. At home I might have struggled for days to do this.”

I know, I’ve been there, know exactly what it feels like to get lost in the tall grass when it comes to design. The worst part about the tall grass is that you can wander for so long you lose your confidence. Even when the design finally does take shape you doubt your judgment.

After working with hundreds of students I find that they usually struggle in two areas. Either they freeze up at the very beginning, unable to get off square one, or they don’t trust their judgment and choke when it comes to the final refinements.

I have good news and bad news for both scenarios. First the bad news. Every designer, no matter how talented gets into that tall grass with the same struggles. The difference is they have been there many times and know that struggle is part of the process. But they still labor over details, just at a higher level. Now the good news. A basic understanding of proportions, simple shapes, and curvature can make a huge difference. Hence those grins from workshop students.

I’m finishing up 2015 with two weekend workshops. There are still a few openings in both. Come learn how to get unstuck.

Oct 17th – 18th at Marc Adams

Nov 7th – 8th  at Richard Grells

George R. Walker

 

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Magic in the forest

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We paused on our hike Saturday to admire a stand of mature American Beech trees. In this part of the Ohio valley they are the kings of the forest, their smooth grey bark shining in the shadows underneath the canopy. Then, just as though someone flipped a switch we were under a shower of Beech nuts dropping from the sky. This wasn’t like the occasional plunk, plunk one hears when oaks shed their acorns. More like quick deluge that sounded like rain falling. A few minutes later and all was still again. I’ve hiked the woods all my life and never experienced a moment like this.

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We walked a short distance and found an old cemetery. Many of the markers were limestone and melting away like dirty bars of soap. But there were a few other stones carved from a different material in better shape from the early 19th century that still showed crisp fine detail. I did a double take on this stone circa 1807 as it’s carved with a motif that a federal era cabinet maker might have employed. Note the fan carving pattern that looks just like many marquetry patterns found on furniture. Also note the trailing vine and leaves around the border. Cross pollination for sure. Also note this other stone which has a swans neck pediment carved into the face. These clearly show the connection between crafts that were all tied together. May you rest in peace Susannah and Sarah.

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George R. Walker

Posted in Architecture, Design Basics | 4 Comments