Messages Archive

The artist comments on furniture design *PIC*

Bill Tindall, E.Tn.
I am fascinated by design theory, probably because I don't know much about it. I sent my artist friend that designs furniture and furnishings two pictures, one of something I made and another something that is going to be inspiration for the corner cupboard. I found her comments interesting and perhaps some of you will too.....

"Yes! The cherry piece is just right. The arches lead the eye to the crown top making a kind of visual logic. Arches are an architectural device to hold something up. Of course in furniture, they are an esthetic device not spanning anything like a doorway or river, but we still bring our functional association of those uses to our interpretation of their use in furniture. " (that is an arch in furniture must have something above it to hold up)

more arches

"So, if they aren’t holding anything up{or in this example holding up little}we intuitively know something is wrong.

she went on....
" In order to be able to think logically about design, it helps to know where the idea originated in the first place. I think those people in the furniture magazines didn’t take their art history class when they did their training (if they ever got any) There are whole chapters inn the big Abrams Art History book on cathedrals, temples, tombs, etc. including types of arches, columns, roof beams, mouldings, etc. The furniture in those buildings echoed the architecture so everything was harmonious. It also reflected the cultural style and taste of the users, but that is too complicated to get into.

and she added a critique of much "studio furniture"

Modern furniture makers have never traveled, have no sense of the traditions and treat the different elements like items in a catalogue— “I have one of these, and one of those”. They are more interested in a tour de force, making something heavy stand on some prissy little foot{like in the second picture}, than in visual harmony or logic. I am sure the other furniture makers understand what they are trying to do, but it is lost on me!"

What she has instilled in my novice designs is simplicity. Every element must serve a purpose and these elements must be harmonious. I don't know the names for design style names so I can not name examples. But, when I show her something I am interested in, but it seems to have some problem to my eye, she will often say things like "what is that all about (ie. it needs to go), or why did they mix XXX molding style with ZZZ legs, or some such.

I once showed her a desk out of College of Redwoods. It had about a dozen design elements, seemingly everything the student had learned in design 101 and some were from widely different styles. Purged of the extraneous and dis-harmonious, it became a pleasing desk.

When I can get her to comment on something I am contemplating working on she improves it. I wished she lived closer so we could collaborate more.

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