Turning Archive 2006

WHY FORM? long

Keith Tompkins
>Lately here on the turning forum, the subject of form has been a hot topic. There has been much discussion, especially in the chat room on the subject. My question is WHY? Why is good form so important?

Here's my take on the subject. A well balanced, well proportioned piece posesses a quality that is lacking in a poorly executed piece...I refer to this as a dynamic quality.

A dynamic piece suggests movement....in a bowl form this could be called "lift", the piece appears to float over the surface it sits upon, rather than blend heavily into it. It may convey a sense of volume, or give the impression that the slightest breeze may topple it. On the other hand, an unbalanced, poor form would appear to be static...no or little visual impact. Where the eye smoothly follows a dynamic form, the static form appears lifeless and dull.

Consider the automobile: early autos were unreliable novelties...purely mechanical devices where form truly followed function. As the auto became more sophisticated, design elements became more and more important....designers realized that appearance mattered a great deal to customers. Long hoodlines, sleek flowing fenders and aerodynamic bodies hinted of SPEED. Cars began to look fast...even sitting still. Form no longer necessarily followed function...appearance was just as important, if not more so, than function. Autos became more than transportation, they became symbols of power and status. As turners, we can apply the same principles of design as car makers do, with pretty much the same results.

Find a turning (or any any art form) that you consider especially good...then study it. How does the height of the piece relate to the width? Where is the emphasis point? How does the foot flow to the rim? How does the size of the foot relate to the rest of the piece? What gives it a dynamic appearance? Then, begin to apply the same ideas to your own work. Again, a wonderful example of this would be a "Wally" piece. His pieces appear as though they are being filled with air pressure, and may explode or float away at any moment. Not an accident, I bet.

To me, the finish, grain pattern, texture, etc. may contribute to the success of a piece. But, the real key to success is form...if a piece I produce doesn't have the dynamic quality I'm striving for, nothing can save it. It's toast....

I would appreciate your thoughts and comments.!

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