Saturday, December 18, 2010

Reflection on Woodworking class

The semester finally ended and it is somewhat of a bittersweet ending for me I am glad that I am finally done, and yet sad to leave and not have access to the woodshop anymore. When I first started I had zero experience with anything wood related and was terrified to even go near a bansaw, but as the semester progressed I learned to be more comfortable with working with wood and I actually enjoyed working with wood. It also gave me a greater appreciation for woodmaking and furniture from experiencing first hand on how time consuming it is to make something that could be overlooked like a picture frame or a small end table. I have to honestly say that there is a very slim chance of me working with wood again, but not because i did not enjoyed it. Its just that since i am graduating having access to the woodshop will not be that easy anymore. But having taken this class helped open and broaden my horizon on what kind of materials I am capable of working with. Now I have the knowledge and knowhow to (if i wanted to) to work with wood and know how wood works and what kind are available to me. I went from knowing nothing to knowing how to making a table and a decent looking frame. I would definitely recommend this class to anyone artist or not.

Friday, December 17, 2010

I.M. Pei

The person that I have decided to research is not a furniture designer but rather an architect by the name of I.M. Pei., he went to M.I.T wanted to study engineer, but was convinced to study architecture. His role model and influence came from Frank Lloyd Wright. Some of his notable and recognizable works are The Louvre's glass pyramid and the spiral staircase, Bank of China (in Hong Kong) and the John F. Kennedy Library. I find I.M. Pei's work to be amazing and awe inspiring, his works are all very geometrical, clean cut and although it looks very minimal in the design aspects its elegant yet sturdy. Pei's style has been described as modernist with a cubist twist. Besides the obvious geometric shape usage in his designs I also noticed that he also likes to work with glass, He does not really explain why he uses the materials he uses, but it did mention that he likes to find balance in his works, which i think he does. Most if not all does not look too bare or too excessive.

As an artist dealing with environmental issues, one quickly realizes that what material you choose to make your art out of becomes a major issue. Almost everything we touch today comes from non-environmentally friendly sources. Perhaps, the best way to be an environmentally friendly artist is to just not make art? This was an interesting topic to think about in relation to this woodworking class.

I decided to look into George Nakashima, after remembering the slide show at the beginning of the semester showing his very natural looking furniture. I thought his work was interesting because of the way that he would leave much of his wood in its sort of original state, and how he would try to play up the natural beauty that was already present in the wood.

In doing some reading on him, it was interesting to read that he only ever worked with large furniture designers twice, each time being problematic for Kakashima. This was because the large designers would create short cuts and use artificial grains to make the furniture. Obviously this would not work for furniture designed specifically to draw upon the natural anomalies in the wood.

This relates to a conversation that myself and a couple other students in the class had in regards to furniture, such as Ikea, versus furniture made out of hardwood, like the tables we made. This circles back to the question of which is better for the environment. One maybe tempted to argue that Ikea furniture, being less wood intensive is better. It certainly is cheaper. However, as someone who as a poor college student bought Ikea furniture, I would argue that it is definitely not environmentally friendly. Ikea furniture is not designed to last. It is highly functional, which plays towards its appeal, but I’ve already broken a TV stand, and most of my furniture from Ikea will not make it past their life as college student furniture.

While going home for Thanksgiving break, I saw all the hardwood furniture my parents have. Much of it is a couple of generations old. Hardwood furniture will outlive us. This fact clearly shows that hardwood furniture, though perhaps not completely environmentally friendly, would have the lower environmental impact. If you’re hard wood coffee table is going to outlast you, how many are you possibly going to need to buy, right? This in comparison to Ikae furniture, which seems to need replacing fairly regularly. Of course, one has to consider price, and why a place like Ikae would do so well.

Ikae is based on functionality and inexpensive. (Though I sometimes wonder how inexpensive they really are.) The fact that they are inexpensive is very attractive to anyone with a limited budget. If you are trying to furnish an apartment on a limited budget, you are going to buy perhaps five pieces from Ikae instead of the one hardwood piece that same budget would.

Hardwood furniture seems to be what you buy when you get older. My parents either inherited pieces, or bought their own, when they finally could afford it. These pieces are all classics, and will outlast me assuming no unknown forces happen.

So the question could then become, how do you turn pieces like George Nakashima’s hardwood masterpieces, that use local woods and are clearly more environmentally friendly, into pieces that the masses can consume without going bankrupt? After working on the table for this class, it is clearly not an easy question to answer.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The stand and stool I built for this final project is in the Mission style. Besides the rectilinear aesthetic appeal of Mission furniture I also love the sensibility of its design. Each piece is designed with a particular function in mind. For instance my project is based on the Telephone table and Stand. You'll notice that the shelf in my desk is almost awkwardly narrow (approximately 5"), but the intention of this mission designed stand is merely to store a phone book, in which case the shelf is appropriately scaled. Foot Stools, Ladies Writing Tables, Fern Stand, Serving Tables, Magazine Table, Library Table...the list goes on. I love this philosophy, maybe it's a bit ocd but I simply like for things to not just go somewhere but belong somewhere. While reading a bit into Missiom Style it wasn't surprising that there were underlying social principles. Gustav Stickley described his design as being based on honesty and simplicity with sound qualities that led to honest men and good citizens. Like certain japanese architecture philosophies I appreciate the thoughfulness behind the style, regardless of whether I think parallel lines make for good citizens!

The End Table With A Little Twist

Creating an End Table for a final project was probably one of the most exciting task I've had in my undergraduate career. Not that it's exciting to create a table, but the idea that I get to use it long after it is built and that I can have something to hold onto after I graduate.

For this piece, I decided to use Cherry Wood due to its higher acidic level over other woods. Having a high acidic level in the wood content is important to me because sometime in the near future I would like to give the table an ebonized finish, and without the higher acidic content it would not be possible.

As for the little twist, I decided to use the shop's laser printer to etch out a Horde symbol, which represents my favorite faction from a computer game known as World of Warcraft (a game I'm currently into). I thought that using the laser printer would make the table a little unique, since I am part of the Digital Media program.

African Mahogany

I thought that it would be nice to find out something about the wood that we're using for our frames this semester. So here's a very short biography on African Mahogany:

African Mahogany is also known as Khaya senegalensis. It is native to Africa and Madagascar.
It produces little yellow flowers and bears wood-like fruits in the summer.

The African Mahogany is resistant to termites and wood rot, so African Mahogany was very popular and used often to build cabinets, door frames, and boats. The African Mahogany was used in the the early 18th century by American colonist to make furniture because it was durable and easy to work with as well as beautiful.

I tried to find out where this wood is harvested, but I had no luck.

More information about the African Mahogany:

George Washington Jack

George Jack (1855-1932)
60 1/2 inches (153.7 cm); Length: 84 1/4 inches (214.7 cm.); Width: 29 1/2 inches (75.0 cm)Mahogany, ornamented with marquetry.

George Washington Jack is Scottish-American born in New York and grew up in Glasgow. Later, Jack moved to London and in 1880, Jack was hired by the Morris & Co. a furniture company that was established by Philip Webb a furniture maker and William Morris an artist and textile designer. His central role in designing for Morris & Co. started in 1890 when Phillip Webb retired.
The distinguishing characteristics of his works are that they are very slender, delicate, and graceful.
Most of his influence comes from Phillip Webb, but his designs were also influenced by the Queen Anne era, which was different from Webb’s designs.
Jack worked in wood but designed for a lot of different materials like stain-glass, mosaics, and cast-ons. He was very talented in wood carving and later became a professor at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London. He is also the author of The Fine Art Society Story.
What I like about his occasional table is that it’s really cute, and slender. It looks delicate and beautiful, but it’s strong. I want to make my table top something like that, but it’s my first semester here and I don’t know if I’m capable of it.


Rodel, Kevin P., Binzen, Jonathan. Arts & Crafts Furniture: From Classic To Contemporary. Newtown, CT: The Taunton Press, Inc., 2003. 24. eBook.

"Occasional Table." The Victorian Web. Web. 30 Sept 2010. .

Occasional Table
Designer: George Washington Jack (1855-1932)
Manufacturer and retailer: Morris & Co.c. 1885
31 inches (78.5 cm) diameter; 27 inches (68.5 cm) high
Mahogany with central sunflower carved boss and 'pie-crust' top and six carved legs
Exhibited: London, The Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society, 1889

Juste-Aurèle Meissonier

Juste Aurèle Meissonier (1695–1750) was a French goldsmith, sculptor, painter, architect, and furniture designer. His style is mainly Rococo, but to the extreme. He loved to crowd every foot of his designs with floral motifs. He built on Oppenordt’s designs, and was also influenced by a Dutch silversmith, Adam van Vianen.Meissonier is a goldsmith, and he makes pieces like candlestick holders and chandeliers. I am not sure if he builds his own furniture designs. But his metal pieces looks just as complex as his furniture pieces.Meissonier designed King Louis XV’s bed chambers and cabinets in 1724. His designs are not massed produced, but were very popular. His approach to architecture was the same as furniture, however, since a building was large, he was able to fit in more motifs, and for a furniture piece, he wanted to fit in as many motifs and couldn’t so his furniture was very busy and wasn’t as successful as his buildings.

I really like his sofa designs, but his table design was too chunky. He is a fantastic goldsmith, and his sculptures are really gorgeous. I love the asymmetry, curves, and his use of gold in his furniture designs.

"Juste-Aurele Meissonier." Chicago, Illinois: Britannica Encyclopedia, 2010. Web.

Image Credits:
Sofa - Juste Aurele Meissonnier (1735)
Chair - Juste Aurele Meissonnier (1730)

Gilles-Marie Oppenordt

Gilles-Marie Oppenordt was a French designer (decorator) and architect for the king. He had a very distinct Rococo style. He is a Dutch born in Paris in 1639 from a line of ébéniste, commonly known as cabinetmakers. His influences included his father who worked for the Louvre Palace in Paris for King Henry IV. He also studied Baroque sculptural ornaments in Rome and idealized Bernini, an Italian artist and Italian architects, Borromini and Pirro Ligorio.
His furniture designs are very elaborate and he studied artists, he was an admirable draftsman. His designs are of the Rococo period, and there are a lot of leaves and curves in his designs. His designs are also asymmetrical.
Oppenordt was a designer and architect, and most likely did not build his designs. However Gabriel Huquier, and engraver and portrait artist engraved some of Oppenordt’s designs.
Oppenordt was a very important figure in the development of the Rococo style. The Rococo style was basically the Baroque style but styled more towards nature, with an emphasis on asymmetry and foliage, and a light hearted feel. He was a very well known designer and published two of his design books; the Grand Oppenord and the Petit Oppenord. He also wrote another book called the L'Art décoratif du 18 siècle (Paris, 1888).
He was very big on the Rococo style, so his interior designs of buildings were just the same; it was all very elaborate and crowed with flowers, leaves and curves.
Oppenordt was a great designer and I love his work. I love the Rococo style; I think it is the most elegant and feminine of all the styles. It is just so pretty. And I adore the cabriole legs on the furniture. I want to put cabriole legs on my projects, because I think they’re really cute.

Works Cited:

Hercules Clock by A.C. Boulle and Gilles-Marie Oppenord, c. 1712, loaned by Paris Musée des Arts et Metiers. Cheremetiev Cabinet, Hermitage Museum (Photo: Paul Paradis)

Paradis, Paul. "Paris Art Market Buzz: A Boullienne Fantasy." Beth Arnold: Letter from Paris. Beth Arnold , 25 Jan 2010. Web. 01 Sept 2010. .

Image Credits:
Ornamental Motifs - LineEdward Pearce Casey Fund from
Rococo Chairs - from

Always post the source info on your images

Hi All.
If you post pictures on the blog, you need to put the artist, title, date, and where you found the image-- not just random uncredited images. I recognize the tire buddha below as being by an Estonian artist I met in Finland, Villu Jaanisoo. When you use an image, you need to include all the credit information!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Zero1 symposium and other things

on the week of zero1 there was a huge amount going on. On Friday I attended the symposium that was held somewhere at city hall. In the beginning it was great having to see fellow digital media and the likes there in the same room, but as the symposium went on and began on trying to concentrate on what they have to say to the audience I quickly lost interest. Not because it was not interesting, but because the "artist" or engineers and scientist that were talking was talking in very scientific terms and was in what i thought to be really communicating to their own kind leaving us the other people out of the loop. All I got out of the symposium was something about the climate clock that had to do with recording for a hundred 100yrs....and above all that the speakers at the symposium i thought to be very dry and technical.

Besides the symposium I got to work with an artist Stephanie Rothenberg with her art show, Best Practices in Banana Time....where she stages a talk show in SecondLife and at the same time in real life time. My job was to be the camera person in secondlife. At the same time while preparing for Stephanie's show I was also participating with digital media's red cross project a few of CADRE's student which includes me decided to showcase the red cross backpack at the zero1 fair. Our job was to fix up the red cross backpack and getting it ready for Zero1 street fair. Even though the symposium was not what I would hoped it to be, but over all i had an amazing experience and I am very grateful to be apart of something special.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Walter Gropius

Walter Adolph Georg Gropius (May 18, 1883 – July 5, 1969) was a German Architect who was known as the founder of the Bauhaus School which specialized in fine arts and crafts. Gropius, along with other architects such as Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe and Le Corbusier were known as the pioneers of modern architecture design.

Walter Gropius's designs were inspired by a less successful movement known as The Werkbund. The Werkbund technique is when one attempts to integrate art, economics, and engineering into a piece of art work, whether it be a structure or a piece of furniture. One of the best example's of Gropius's industrial designs is the F 51 armchair (the red chair) which integrates both the aesthetic material and the engineering (wood components) together.

Richard Deacon

Richard Deacon was born in Bangor, Wales in 1949 and lives and works in London. Deacon is a ground breaking contemporary sculptor who is well known for his dynamic, organic, anatomical, abstract sculptures scaling from small to massive.

He uses manufacturing and building techniques rather than traditional sculpturing methods. Therefore, he is able to use woods, steel and ceramics to produce slick curled, spiraled, shaped objects. Over the past decade, he has developed a vocabulary of shapes and this notion.

I am really gravitated toward his large-scale sculptures. Besides his exceptional craftsmanship, his works are consistently dynamic, forceful, aesthetically beautiful, and the best of all, they are playful -- resembling rubix cubes (puzzles) or maze. Deacon quotes: “The curve has a life of its own, it is not describing or depicting a shape.”

Spatial relationships between sculpture and its surroundings are also equally important to the artist.

Here is one of his works:

Restless, 2005

Steamed ash and stainless steel

158 x 374 x 257 cm

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Robert Rauschenberg October 22, 1925 – May 12, 2008

Rauschenberg was an American artist who came to prominence in the 1950s transition from Abstract Expressionism to Pop Art. Rauschenberg is well-known for his "Combines" of the 1950s, in which non-traditional materials and objects were employed in innovative combinations. Rauschenberg was both a painter and a sculptor and the Combines are a combination of both, but he also worked with photography, printmaking, papermaking, and performance. Rauschenberg would picke up trash and found objects that interested him on the streets of New York City and brought these back to his studio where they could become integrated into his work. He claimed he "wanted something other than what I could make myself and I wanted to use the surprise and the collectiveness and the generosity of finding surprises. And if it wasn't a surprise at first, by the time I got through with it, it was. So the object itself was changed by its context and therefore it became a new thing." This sentiment can be seen in his various works. One of my favorite works from him would have to be monogram. In this piece Rauschenberg found a taxidermied goat, put it in a tire and placed it on a painted canvas. At my high school we had "Raushenberg Day" when Raushenberg would come and talk to us and do projects with the students. I was lucky enough to work with him on several projects that are on display at the school.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Where should tire scraps go?

Billion of rubber tires are produced yearly and through wear and tear become replaced. Many of these tires are burned and some end up in landfills. Tire’s are now recycled in various ways but may be somewhat tricky to recycle because they are composed of different elements. Elements contained in tires may be harmful to the environment when piled up in landfills they may be a fire hazard. The tires in the landfills take up space that can be used for other purposes. So, recycling tires in the form of furniture art seems like a great way to begin cleaning up the landfills. Much of the contemporary and modern art uses recycled items already. Worn out tires can and have been creatively reused as furniture and art pieces. The ottoman and chair below at first glance may appear as leather yet they are made out of recycled tires. They are perfect examples of recycled tires that functions work fabulous in most modern homes. Tire scraps should ultimately be removed from landfills and converted into functional pieces of furniture and pieces of art such as the interesting looking Buddha below.   

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Blog Entry #3

Hey all,

Finally getting my last post up at the very last minute. I did the research weeks ago but as I seriously dislike blogging I just couldn’t bring myself to type it all up and then I lost my notes and had to start all over. Alas. Anyhow…tonight’s topic is pyrography. While it’s something I’ve been doing since I was eleven (although I generally refer to it as woodburning) I’d never really given any thought to it’s origins, history, or contemporary place in the art world—it was something fun to do that smelled good and looked nice when I was done. But Steve mentioned that the frame I had burned looked like Victorian pyrography and it’s been at the back of head to take a look and see what that was all about and this is as good of an excuse as any so here we go.

Right. First off is a definition for those new to the concept. It’s exactly what one would guess—writing with fire. Or drawing with heat. It can be done all sorts of surfaces: wood, leather, and some papers are my favorites. These days a nice, civilized, plugs-into-the-wall heating device is used like a pen to burn the desired design onto something.

Now into the history of it all. This article was the most informative and really quite interesting (although a lot of the links on the last page that I really wanted to follow seem to be outdated now). I especially liked that it included an example of a piece from before 700 A.D.. It would seem that people have been burning designs into things for rather a long time ( I kept coming across references to early Egyptian and African work, but nobody seemed to want to give me any details and actual examples....). I found a neat bit about Chinese pyrography dating back to the Han Dynasty (which I vaguely remember from an Asian Art History course as being a very long time ago indeed) here. But in terms of more recent Western art it stated out as something called pokerwork (which amuses me to no end)--so called because it was done by sticking the poker into the fire until it glowed and then using it to draw until it cooled down and had to be reheated to continue. A nice wee bit regarding that can be found here (this one was more detailed--speculating about the early use of heated needles for detail work, etc., but the site was kind of a pain to access--you have to take survey first...) The Victorian Era saw the invention of a benzine-fueled tool that made the process easier and the ladies magazines that popularized it. Factories sprung up to mass produce the stuff (w/ heated plates) and lots of neat things like this came into being.

Here are a couple of magazine/blog links I found on the topic (in terms of modern usage). They have forums and patterns and pretty pictures:

This guy put up a nice walk-you-through-the-basics site--I agree with most everything he had to say and as I don't have any step-by-step documentation we'll go with his....

Lastly, for anybody who wants to play too, here’s where I got my much-loved woodburner (although a soldering iron is a nice, cheap place to start….):