Benji Reyes making me soul search

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Blog entry by Joshua Howe posted 09-08-2010 04:46 PM 1598 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Okay, this started as a response to Benji Reyes blog on The Need to Design but I didn’t want to leave such a long response on someones blog when it kind of goes on and off subject. I also didn’t want to loose the process of thought.
Therefore, I won’t change the format:

Thank you for your guidance. I sometimes lose myself in the every day task of life. Being a graduate of the arts, “identity” or “your own style” has been something taught and preached through schooling. I have searched for this and feel I have yet to find it or develop it. I hope that one day I am face to face with it. And maybe I am already who knows. But to look at your work gives me feelings of enjoyment and jealousy.
Jealousy—Well this may not be the best word to describe it. But to explain I look at your work and your accomplishment in the path to identity. I see you making something functional but it goes beyond functional and expresses something about you. And that is what makes me jealous not your work but your knowledge of the path to your own style. Patience is one of my biggest problems. It’s almost like I say to myself why didn’t I think of that. I look at your work and the wavy fluent lines. Then, I look at my work and I wonder why my work doesn’t capture motion as yours does (just boring). Maybe, I’m over thinking it, maybe I am not a fluent person, and I’m just more cut and dry analytical. I do have a tendency to obsess over squareness. I have a lot of squares and till this day I still don’t believe any of them are square. I also like to use rulers when possible because it needs to be to the 32nd and left center or right of the line. I don’t feel this is the rooting of style or identity but more of a shackle keeping me from moving forward on this path. There is just something I am missing or at least I think there is. Maybe, I am being too spiritual or mythological with the idea of the phrase “your own style’. Maybe “my own style” is there, and I just don’t see it because I don’t even know my true self yet. Well hopefully one day I will come back to these questions and answer them myself.
But until then feel free to ponder and give me your 2cents.

-- Wood,clay,metal, and stone are all just materials, until an artist's hand touches them.--TreeFormDesign

2 comments so far

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1509 posts in 3548 days

#1 posted 09-08-2010 09:51 PM

Just to save other folks the searching, here's Benji Reyes's essay.

I think one of the things that those of us who tend towards the excessively functional often take too seriously is that concept is not design. Something that pisses me off to no end, and this is a trait especially common to young architects and architecture students, is when people call themselves “designers” but have no notion of how to take their concept through to execution.

On the counter-side, it’s often hard for me to get past the “well, I need some wood that goes from here to here and holds up that, and I can make straight cuts easily, so…”. I, and it sounds like you, get hung up on functionality, and forget that there are lots of ways to support that piece from this piece.

The things I’m finding that help me along that path?

  • Exploring new techniques. A sanding disk on an angle grinder is my new favorite tool. It’s hard to control, so I have to let parts of the design be a collaboration between me, the wood, and the tool, rather than saying “I want this cut to go here”.
  • Starting with warped boards, knots, and strange grain. James Krenov in The Impractical Cabinetmaker points out that we who are not trying to mass produce have already taken a step away from structure. If we account for our time, we could buy structures that are functionally equivalent to what we’re building for far less. So we have the luxury of collaborating with our wood on each piece, and we should let the lumber we’ve decided to use for each structure dictate some notion of how that structure appears. Sometimes that means going out of our way to make the wood dictate the form.
  • Not being afraid to waste some lumber. Sometimes I get hung up on keeping each little piece around, but I’m starting to just have big swaths of cheap plywood for building things like router templates. Yes: A curve that does what that grain asks of me is going to require building a one-off jig, and I’m going to throw it away afterwards. Really, that sheet of CDX plywood cost $20, and I should think of it not as a valuable resource, but as a consumable, just like sandpaper, and make myself a template.
  • Trying on other people’s designs. Every time I try to rip off a designer, I end up learning things about their mindset and skills, and I learn things about what I need to learn, and where those styles don’t work for me.

And I think it’s also important to note that style, real style, evolves from skill. I did not know enough about my materials or my tools to make my first cabinet, or even my fifth, interesting. I’m just now starting to develop a style, and this is after laying up a 15 foot laminated curve for a piece that I acknowledged as I built it is going to be thrown away when I get around to replacing it. It’s easy to mistake concepts for design, it’s a lot harder for me to have tried to build those various concepts in various styles, and failed, even though sometimes failure still means people look at it and go “wow”, as I learn how to really design.

(As an aside on this concept vs design vs the skill to fabricate, I’ve been involved in trying to bring a number of products to market in conjunction with factories in China. One of my big fears is that because we’re outsourcing many of the skills necessary to take a concept to production, we’re going to run out of design skills in the U.S. culture. The ability to design goes way deeper into the hands-on fabrication than people who are willing to dismiss manual labor understand.)

Anyway, just some ramblings from my own journey.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View BertFlores58's profile


1684 posts in 2345 days

#2 posted 09-09-2010 02:07 AM

I am just nearby Benji’s residence, I met him once (several attemps but both of us are always occupied) and we have talked about originality of design. He asked me, what is it that I really like? My quick answer was I like to combine both metal and wood. He also suggested this as this is also one of his dreams. Some designs are really hard to realize and it becomes a challenge to anybody who wants to put the design in flesh. I have all the plans and drawings what is in my mind but sad to say that you need to have a way of doing the things in the material world.

Just a months ago, I started doing sketchup geometrical design… spiral design using what I learned such as sine wage, helical curves and other mathematical concept. Opposite with Benji’s irregular curves, I started doing the straight lines where the illussion is greatly will result to curve line by connecting intersections. I have done plenty designs in just a month and more to come. I posted the spiral and also the rectangular however nobody knew that I have more. I paused for posting the others because the challenge of LJ is to make in FLESH. Another challenge including me, wants all the designs to be realized and become functional in our material world. Yes, Benji told me that you just love to do it and money will just come. I have reached the point wherein I feel that I like to do it because I love to do it. Some people say, I am just waisting my time and I have a lot of patience to do it. FOR ME, I DONT CARE HOW MUCH IT TAKE but I JUST WANT TO PROVE that my DESIGN can MOVE PEOPLE and APPRECIATE THE BEAUTY OF IT.

Benji is right, you don’t need to study arts to be a good designer, it is just right there in your heart and mind.

Thanks for opening the topic in this blog. I it is very inspiring.

-- Bert

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