Here is my second completed interpretation of our jewelry box project. To restate the challenge, I am trying to stay somewhat true to the original subject while exploring various design aesthetics. I was brainstorming some genres of design, and “Asian” came to mind. I couldn’t tell you the first thing about Asian design. Maybe that is for the best. My interpretation is purely off the cuff. I immediately got an image of a pagoda and couldn’t shake it. I was intrigued by the challenge of incorporating the shape of the pagoda roof structure into a lid. Secondly, I tried to keep the ornamentation to a minimum. The lid, handle and feet speak for themselves. The box is Birdseye maple with ebonized oak accents. It is finished with sprayed lacquer.
When I see true “Asian” pieces, I can appreciate how they influenced Arts & Crafts designers. I am much more versed in the language of Craftsman design and may well have mixed aesthetics especially in the handle.
This project was a whirlwind because I made it as a Mother’s Day gift for my Mother-in-law and started it the day before her visit! Unfortunately (or fortunately) I didn’t have time to research Asian design. I’m certain that with more time and research there are elements of Asian design, which provide the aesthetic without the obvious overture to a pagoda structure (it wouldn’t be French just because it is shaped like the Eiffel Tower). Maybe that makes my interpretation trite.
With any project, I think we can identify focal points. What is the eye drawn to? Our subject box has limited options: the handle, the lid, the box or the feet. Regardless of the limited options, our palette is limitless. How these parts are designed dictates the overall aesthetic. I chose to play with three of the four.
More pics are available here.
After settling on my focal design elements, I spent a great deal of time playing with dimension. I ran a Phi scale on the box dimensions (8 divided by 1.618 = 5 = 3 = 1 7/8 = 1 1/8 = ¾ = 7/16 = ¼…) and applied it to many of the elements. For instance, the feet are 1 7/8” square at their base and 7/16” wide at their top and stand ¼” proud of the box. The handle has a 13” radius curve… While the golden mean can be a great starting point for dimensions and can supposedly bring a dimensional harmony to a design, there is a certain trial and error to its application. Given more time (or a second attempt) there are some elements I would refine. For example, I feel that the feet are too strong at their top. I would have thinned the ¼” dimension or, perhaps, added a cove profile to their top. I am not 100% happy with the handle either. I feel that it dominates the lid a bit.
Let’s talk a bit about the lid and feet. (Sorry there are no process pics this time, but the scheduled deadline was too ominous.) I carved the lid with carving tools, power and hand sanding. It was a fun process, but difficult to visualize at times. The feet were roughly band sawn from a rabbeted blank and shaped with a drum sander. I ebonized the oak parts with steel wool dissolved in white vinegar.
As I mentioned in the first post of this series, I hope many of you will rise to the challenge and design your own version of our example subject. Please do! Please post your results!