Keep It Real…

Yet another rant, and no pictures this time.  I don’t want to embarrass anyone.

Some time ago, I visited a furniture exhibit at a woodworking school.  It was a 50/50 exhibit:  50% really nice, well built, identifiable furniture and sculpture, and 50% “ego” or  “gallery” furniture.  I’m sure you know what I mean: young inexperienced woodworkers desperately trying to make a statement.  There were a few items that were neither furniture nor sculpture, a table with holes in the top, and a chair that cried out “don’t sit on me,” since originality, rather than comfort seemed to be the intent.

Years ago, I attended one of Tage Frid’s lectures.  He recalled a senior furniture exhibit, where one of the participants created his project in secret, only to be revealed at the opening.  The maker proudly stood by and and said to Tage “I bet you’ve never seen anything like this before”, to which Tage pointed to the object and replied “That’s why”.  This anecdote inspired a favorite ad of mine “Any artist can make something you’ve never seen before.  Very few can create a piece you’ll want to see, or live with, for the rest of your life.”

The Shakers never had measured drawings to be slavishly copied.  Instead they had general rules, like “Beauty rests on utility.”  That was 200 years before Louis Sullivan declared that “Form follows function.”  More to the point was the admonition that “All beauty that has no foundation in use soon grows distasteful, and needs continuous replacement with something new.”  Unfortunately, that is what our consumer culture seems to be based on.

I have no qualms with wood being used to create art, but please don’t call it furniture if it can’t function as such.  It gives furniture makers a bad name.  Good design is timeless, while fashion is fleeting:  that which is cutting edge today, is dull as a butter knife tomorrow.

C.H. Becksvoort © 2014

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