29 September 2009

Designing dilema

I'm continually puzzled by one aspect of woodworking and I don't know whether I should be...design!

Let me explain. I suspect that most people who are interested in building furniture of any sort like to have a go at designing something for themselves which has a unique 'this is me' feel to it, 'it's mine, I designed and made it, for better or worse' and if you don't like it...'well, you can shove it!' But I think that many (including yours truly) want to go some way beyond that and create something with a bit of a 'wow' factor, or maybe a piece that has a timeless, dateless quality...and that's where it starts to get really difficult, as those sorts of pieces can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

I would give my back teeth (if I had any) to create something like a Barcelona chair which is just about the sexiest thing on the planet on which to rest your bum (would you believe it was designed in 1929!) or even a classic Maloof rocker, not quite in the same league though. I would be more than happy as well to create a simple, beautiful cabinet where someone might say "Coo...fantastic, looks just like a Krenov piece"

And therein lies the difficulty, because no matter how hard I strive, my designs (and probably many other people's) are tainted (which seems a grossly unfair description) though coloured is more apt, by these fantastic, timeless creations that others have achieved. It seems to me almost impossible for a mere mortal woodworker to rise above this level of work because I find that all this wonderful stuff is continually kicking around inside my head so it's bloody hard to come up with anything that's remotely original, or perhaps I shouldn't bother... and that's the dilemma.

I want to.

Which then poses another question...how do I (or you, maybe) go about this nefarious and almost ethreal process of design?

Over the last few days, I've been pondering on just how to make this unit for the TV, a simple enough job, but one with a few considerations that have begun to surface. I've started off by looking at what's available on the t'interweb which is always useful and provides interesting comparisons, so now I've got lots of different sorts of images knocking around inside...all very confusing! The next thing I supose is the 'functional' element of the job...how big, what's going into it, what are their sizes?... after which I'll probabley get out the drawing pencils and a ream of A3 paper and start to scribble madly.

But, sadly, I know already... it's the 'form' part of the exercise that'll have the guys in white coats coming for me.


Tom said...

Rob when I want to design something I trawl the web for images of similar items and save them to my hdd in a folder called 'Inspiration'. I then go through them with wifey and we weed out the good and bad. After that I sit down with, in my case, sketchup and I start trying ideas, taking bits from the images I've found until I've designed something which is unique and pleasing to both of us. It will also fit the area it's going to live in. Building it is another matter, I've got a couple of dozen designs ;) (hence the forthcoming domino purchase.) I wouldn't get hung up too much on purposely creating something special. It'll come. We'll never think our projects are good enough, which is a good thing. Isn't it?

Mitchell said...

As a designer, where I find most craftsmen fail with their designs is in the proportions, often in basic areas, such as their choice in material thickness. Try to imagine your Barcelona chair made from 2" thick stock and you will see what I am talking about.

I could give you a good number of reasons NOT to rely on programs like SketchUp, but in this limited space I will just say, "you get what you pay for". Good design takes time and patience, something most are not willing to invest.

If you have a concept you believe in, take the time to build it to scale in cardboard or balsa wood. Once you have a perfect model of the design, live with it a few months. Doing so will allow you to see if it "stands the test of time".

My last suggestion in your quest for the "wow" factor is to remember; you have to kiss a lot of toads to find your princess.


Woodbloke said...

Mitchell - thanks for the good words. I'm not a Sketchup fan either and prefer good old pencil and paper. Your suggestion of a balsa model is excellent and one that intend to follow through with future projects...I'd made my mind up some time ago that this was the way to do it. Proportions are also crucial and something I'm also aware of when designing a project.
I'm not sure I want to go down that toady road though...ew!