As the Twelve-week Intensive enters its final four weeks, students are working tirelessly to get their case pieces together, while simultaneously beginning the design process for their curvature projects. One of the biggest challenges at this stage is resisting the temptation to rush. The pressure of too much work in too little time builds, and the excitement of learning the new processes for bending wood starts to mount, but you have this one set of dovetails on your case piece that just won't fit. These are the defining moments for emerging woodworkers. Having the focus to sharpen chisels, delicately pare the shoulder of a tenon, and gingerly test the fit of a joint when you are so close to being done and itching to start something new, is crucial to good craftsmanship.
Walking through the Nine-month classroom I am reminded that there are many different ways to approach a design brief. In the last 5 weeks each student designed and built a furniture piece with curved elements. Collectively they have created a fine body of work which includes a lawyer’s standing desk, coffee and side tables, hall and sofa tables, a wall cabinet, and a gentleman’s valet. In addition to steam and laminate bending, students explored other curve-forming techniques like coopering and kerf cutting. I’m sure there is a mix of relief, satisfaction, and accomplishment when the wood bends without breaking, when the vacuum press closes before the glue sets, or when there is minimal spring back when the clamps come off the form.
The last four weeks of the Twelve-week Intensive are dedicated to curvature. With freedom from the confines of the straight line, students' design vocabulary become practically unlimited. However, with the gift of openness comes the dilemma of choice. Consequently, this final project requires a great deal of experimentation and editing. Curves add both conceptual and aesthetic complexity, and as such, students learn to be both proactive and reactive in their process.
Craig Stevens is the guest instructor for the final four weeks
With solid wood design and construction under their belts, the Nine-month Comprehensive students are now being introduced to a whole new world of design opportunity. Veneer allows us to create work which doesn't require accommodation for wood movement. The ability to work with veneer can expand a furniture maker's aesthetic vocabulary exponentially; however, like learning a new medium, such expansion requires an entirely new set of skills.
Having acquired new skills with hand tools and machines, the Nine-month Comprehensive students have moved to their next project: to create a solid-wood case piece with drawers and doors. Currently they are going through an in-depth design process involving drawings, models, and full-scale mock-ups, as well as pertinent lectures on the necessary mechanics and strategies. Check back soon to see their progress.