Friday, January 24, 2014

Finishing strong and starting all over again...and again

It’s been an interesting few weeks for me around the wood shop leading up to the Christmas break and since we returned earlier this month.
In terms of my cabinet, I met my goals before the holidays: everything completed except for a few small details – mostly related to hardware and the fit of the doors, and cleaning up a few scuffs and scratches.
And a week into this semester I had those details taken care of and was able to present the final product to the class! Here it is:

After that I started thinking about my next project. We’ve been introduced to the technique of veneering, so that was an option, another cabinet was also possible, maybe on a stand, or I could build a chair. There were lots of options, and some of my classmates were racing ahead, mocking-up their ideas, choosing wood, while I was poring through books and photos, trying to get inspired.
I went through a bunch of ideas, but nothing really grabbed me until I saw two different settees – one a Shaker style with turned legs and stretchers, the other inspired by Shaker craftsmanship but more of a modern piece.
I came up with a sketch that combined elements of both into one piece, and suddenly I was inspired and ready to get to work! Here's my drawing: 
But then, as things often go, I was told that the wood I wanted to use wouldn’t work, and that the piece was probably too ambitious for me, and it would be difficult to complete it on deadline, and that I should reconsider – my instructors thought a bench would be a workable compromise.
Back to the drawing board. Literally. I sat down and started sketching – partly to clear my head, and partly to try and find some inspiration. Here are some of the random drawings I did: 

Then my instructor Laura suggested I might be interested in building something called Vidar’s Chair. The piece was designed and built by Vidar Malmsten (son of Carl Malmsten and a friend of James Krenov). He actually completed the piece in Krenov’s shop after bringing it over on the back of his bicycle. More about that later.
Laura’s reasoning was that it would allow me to still build a ‘sitting object,’ but since we have plans for the chair, and the instructors are very familiar with it, it would be more achievable than the settee. I wouldn’t have to start from scratch, coming up with drawings and a design from nothing more than a photograph, but could work from the plans and draw on other’s knowledge.
Ben, a second year student who built a pair of Vidar’s chair’s last year, was also encouraging and said the project gave him the skills he needed to build the beautiful settee he did this year.

So, I pulled the trigger and am building a pair of these chairs. One with arms, and one without. I spent the last couple of days making templates, getting familiar with the chair and building a form to bend the back stretcher. And I’m heading to Santa Rosa on Monday to buy the wood I need. Boom. This is happening. Here’s what my drawings look like… 
And here are Ben's chairs from last year. So sweet... 

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