Friday, June 3, 2011

GREAT NEWS! I have just arranged a new studio space fro my furniture and sculpture work! In a week or so, I will be setting up shop at Lyndon Street Artworks in Greensboro, NC. I have a space thts twice the size of my current (albeit) free) space, but much better power and ventilation, floorspace and flexible storage, and all of this just 5 minutes and 2 miles from the house (as opposed to the old set-up which was 20 minutes and 12 miles from home). I couldn't be more tickled!

I start a new job on monday in a tradeshow and exhibit design company here in Greensboro, and this will enable me to afford the new digs. the new studio is in a larger building that houses about 20-30 artists of different methods and medium. The creative energy there was palpable on my very first visit; it will be such a joy to be back around other creatives; I get such positive energy from being surrounded by others doing the same (and different) work. It reminds me much of the energy I felt when in graduate school in classes with others that were actively designing, creating and solving problems. It is an absolute necessity for me to be immersed in that soup; no designer exists or survives in a vacuum.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Now with the move into my new residence completed, I'm glad to be returning to the woodshop to continue the design and fabrication of new items. At this point I'm focusing on a change of scale for my work. This is in part due to the huge amount of work that goes into the production of the larger pieces I've produced, but also, and perhaps more importantly, this change of scale reflects a response to the material that I use in its "raw" form.

Due to the size and shape of the material when I rescue it from the dumpster, there is usually a fair amount of energy and effort that goes into creating useful objects. There is simply a lot of cutting and clamping that makes each piece quite labor-intensive. My new approach reverses my typical tack of creating a design and then finding a way to build it from the limited sizes and shapes available to me. Instead, I am now examining the wastestream available to me and working within the parameters and limitations of the actual material sizes to realize new ideas with the least fabrication input. Working smarter, not harder.

Current designs on my desk reflect the native shapes of the waste as they usually appear at the back door of the factory headed to the trash. Utilizing the most common shapes available has revealed an entirely new type and range of objects that can be made much more easily than those I've made before. From the perspective of fabrication, it makes my life much simpler, speeding the process completely. However, from the perspective of design awareness, it has completely blown the doors off of my way of thinking. I have always enjoyed the challenge of visual design. However, the curious fact about this new development is that it aligns the entire process with that of TRULY sustainable thinking: make the absolute most of the materials available with the least amount of energy and time, producing a product from waste that will stand the test of time and wear while cultivating a positive user/object relationship that results in years of useful service.

Foot prints on the moon...:)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Just delivered the first commission work I've had in some time. Its actually a counter-height table for the kitchen for casual dining that also has several large shelves beneath the surface. The frame is welded square steel tubing, and the surfaces are 3/4" Baltic birch plywood with 3 coats of AFM SafeCoat Polyureseal BP, which is a low-VOC, low-odor water-based satin finish. If you get a chance to use this product, you will not be dissatisfied. I love it. I had been a huge fan of Danish oil, primarily for its simplicity of use; its easy to sand and buff to a finish that you want. I found the same, if not better results with the AFM product.

It has been nice to get back into welding and fabrication again also. This project was fairly involved regarding the layout and welding jig construction, and since I haven't tackled a project of this nature in some time, there was a significant amount of relearning of the best practices of fabrication welding. Obstacles notwithstanding, my client was very happy with the outcome and the project finished on a high note.

Talk to you soon.

Monday, February 28, 2011

I'm off this minute to pick up the powdercoated table for a client of mine; can't wait to see the finish and quality of work. I've been looking for a reliable coater for some time, and I hope this works out. I have a few bicycle frames that I want to hot rod with custom finishes, so that should be fun.

I'm also heading down to The Hardwood Store in Graham today to pick up Baltic birch plywood for this project. It's always fun to visit that place; there's never any shortage of cool and useful scraps of wood that they are more than willing to part with. I'll post some pics this evening. Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I've been thinking a lot lately about western consumer habits and the whole "material consumption" thing. This period of thought and observation was brought on by two unique pieces of media I have recently absorbed. The first is a book I'm reading entitled Garbage Land: On The Secret Trail Of Trash by Elizabeth Royte, and the second is the movie Koyaanisqatsi: Life out of Balance. It was directed by Godfrey Reggio, produced by Francis Ford Coppola and the soundtrack/score was composed by Phillip Glass.

While I came across the above-mentioned book in the past year or so, and am just now reading it, I first saw Koyaanisqatsi during my undergrad years in the early nineties, and it had a profound effect on me. It is effectively a moving image and soundtrack documentary (no dialogue or narrative) centered on the title of the movie which is the Hopi Indian term for 'life out of balance; crazy life; a life that is unsustainable and must be changed to continue". The beginning offers images of 'life in balance' around the world, as offered by nature and her rules therein. It then gradually moves toward images of urbanity and technology, and the over-consumption that is common to western societies. Without saying a word, the movie uses the images, collected from 1975 to 1983, to convey the realities of consumption and its chaotic effect on us and the planet.

This imagery and its embedded message have been with me for years. What was most interesting to me was seeing it again recently after beginning to read the book about garbage. The two different media really hit me hard, reminding me of the reasons that I build things using upcycled furniture industry waste. I suppose it was movies like this that initially made me look critically at the waste we generate and the way we live in relative denial about it.

My blog posts usually discuss the ups and downs of woodworking, furniture design and dumpster diving. I like taking a break from that course to discuss some of the more philosophical motivations of my work. If you aren't afraid to expand your horizons a bit, see this movie. It might make sense to you; it might not. I didn't get the entire movie and all of its subtle nuances the first time I saw it, but the core message was clear as a bell. If you get off your couch after watching it and have a more critical eye regarding the realities of our "modern" existence, the movie will have effectively made its point. It is supposed to be an eye-opener, and even though dated, it will awaken you even if only for an hour and twenty-seven minutes.

Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I spent yesterday preparing this welding jig for a furniture commission that I'm tackling right now. This particular piece doesn't really have any reclaimed or upcycled materials in it, though I'm sure there is at least some recycled content in the steel. This item is a shelf system with a table surface for the kitchen that will provide a bit more storage and a place for the family's two young children to hang out in the kitchen and draw while dinner gets made. The nice thing about it is that it is fairly simple and dual-purpose.

I'm also rebuilding three pottery wheels for my friend Charlie Teft who teaches ceramics at Guilford College. While I prefer to build furniture and other curious creations, I do undertake maintenance and repair work to help pay the bills, and in times like these, any job will do. Onward and upward...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I spent the weekend (as much as I could) in the new workshop, and got much done. I'm still learning to deal with such a tiny space; it truly requires much planning, especially when you are sharing it with others. I have to remember to budget more time to set up and tear down all of my work, as I can't really leave it out on the table when others are around and need to use the same space. I can safely say that when I am able to relocate to a larger workspace, I will truly be thankful for it.

This is a pic of my latest work: a coffee table (I think) that will probably have a metal leg structure of some type. This is from a series of sketches created in the past year that I haven't gotten around to building just yet. I'm glad it's finally happening though, as this particular piece has taught me much about the way I use upcycled materials from dumpsters. Once again, the entire endeavor comes down to the material's influence over the design process. In design education, we are taught to consider the material throughout the process, which naturally affects the design to some extent. Upcycling, however, is all about the dice you roll when you climb into the dumpster; the material will let you know what's going to happen next, and not a moment sooner. I like to think of it as 'guerilla upcycling'...