I rarely build from plans. Never have. I’m not really sure why. Maybe it’s a commentary on my inherent need to be right. I am, however, not immune to inspiration! My favorite part of LJs is seeing all of your projects. I have been exposed to some truly amazing pieces. My favorites are the truly original designs.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about design. What makes a design original, unique, or inspiring? There are any number of “formulas” for good design. I ascribe to a few, but they certainly don’t guarantee unique results. No, what I’m pondering is what some might call a design asthetic or a design narrative. How is it that we can immediately identify a “Maloof” rocker. He wasn’t the first person to design a chair or even the first to use the California roundover, but his work definitely exudes his personal narrative. No doubt you could identify a Maloof piece from a mile away. You could probably even differentiate a Maloof original from even the most faithful reproduction. Even outside of the realm of chairs, Mr. Maloof’s tables and case pieces quietly say “Sam designed and built me”! That’s a design narrative.
I believe that all great design starts with interpretation. If we faithfully reproduce Morris chairs or Maloof rockers are we anything more than wood machinists? Sure we can learn a lot. We now understand how to form the bow arm for the Morris chair or the “dado-rabbet” leg joint for the Maloof, but it begs the follow-up question: “What do we do with this new understanding?” For most of us the answer is – build more Morris chairs or Maloof rockers.
There has to be something more. We each have a design narrative hidden deep inside. We are each inexplicably drawn to a certain aesthetic. That’s a good place to start. It may be Federal, Queen Anne, Craftsman or Contemporary. (Mine is often either Arts & Crafts or Rustic). If we challenge ourselves to look at pleasing forms and envision them through our personal aesthetic, then maybe, just maybe, we can ascend to heights unknown!
That may be a bit lofty. But here it is: THE CHALLENGE. I want to begin a dialogue. I hope to complete a series of projects and discover a bit about my own design narrative. I sure hope that some of you will follow along, join in and post your results!
For the first project, I chose a fairly simple jewelry box. This is not an original design. It was in either Wood or American Woodworker magazine several years ago. I liked it so much that I made five (with varied wood species) as gifts. The Art Deco style is pleasing, but for our purposes, I think the proportions are the important thing. It has a lightness that is pleasing and a simple elegance that I believe is universally appealing.
The challenge is to incorporate your personal design aesthetic. Re-envision this jewelry box. Make it you own but keep the proportions fairly true to the original. Design a cousin not a sibling. More pics are available here.
The original stands 5” with the lid and handle, 3 1/4” without. The box proper is 8” x 5” x 2 1/2”. The legs raise the bottom of the box 3/4” from the table.
I’m gonna start mine right now! I hope you do too! Good luck, and I’m excited to see what some of you come up with.