Design challenge accepted

There I was, recently learning my fate regarding CFC, feeling really dejected and did not really want to attend the Port Townsend woodworker’s show the first weekend in November. It turned out to be the best thing that I did and was immeasurable in helping me get back on track and away from the pity party I was having. In my next post I think I will go a little more in depth on the show itself, but I wanted to relate a brief moment of a conversation I had with Tim Lawson, the director for the PT School of Woodworking. I consider Tim a good friend and I value his opinions and suggestions, even if he were not a part of the school. Besides, Tim is a fantastic furniture maker in his own right. Anywho, as we were discussing my recent woes and how I could come back from it, Tim threw down a design challenge for me.

The rules were simple, before the end of November, I was to design a piece of furniture that only had three straight joints and forward that to him for review. My mind was a whirlwind the rest of the weekend and before I went to bed on Sunday evening I had drawn this on a yellow sticky…






If you can’t make out my chicken scratches, it is a three legged glass top table. In the center of the table is a segmented cylinder with veneered top and bottom. The legs are to be ebonized ash or poplar.

I emailed it to Tim and he responded in part with this:

“I like your sketch of the table so my challenge to you is this:

  1. Day one: Sketch 20 variations on the table in 20 minutes. Take 5 sheets of paper quarter them and let yourself go. Don’t worry about detail – this is all about form. Play with the curves. Limit yourself to the twenty minutes and focus on exploring – pick up on themes you like as the sketches evolve. This exercise is about tuning into design elements that are important to you. This is not about thinking – this is about channeling your inner moose.
  2. Get Elizabeth to look at them with you and identify the ones she likes best.”

So off I went. I completed the task as instructed, scanned the images and uploaded them to a shared folder on Google Drive (which I love!) Tim was able to open the documents and comment on designs and elements he liked. Elizabeth picked seven designs of the 20 I completed and Tim agreed on almost all of them, save one. I cut each of the good designs and taped them, each to page, in a design sketch book I have and will be working on them as time permits. But the sketches that did not survive the first cut I taped to a sheet of cardboard. Here they are:

You can see that the one Elizabeth liked has a check mark next to it. Are these rudimentary designs, well yes, but this was one of my main reasons for wanting to go to a formal school of instruction. This is one of those skills I need to develop. I have been used to designing on the fly as I build from the very beginning and I am not used to putting any ideas down onto paper and refining to a working design. I will be posting the designs that passed the initial round as I work on them, in the meantime feel free to comment on what I’ve done so far. I have thick skin!

This entry was posted in furniture design, Furniture maker, port townsend school of woodworking, The Butler Did It, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Design challenge accepted

  1. Tim is a great! Not only has he been to school for this, he is constantly surrounded by really great artists. It rubs off. That he took the time to participate in this challenge with you is a great gift! His method is how I sketch. Carry a notebook. All the time! Observe what is around you, both natural and man made. Identify what lines, forms and patterns you like. This is one of the reasons I’m drawn to photography. Don’t worry about analyzing it, yet. Draw and draw some more. You’ll get better at sketching. Bring all the elements you find you like singularly into cohesion that will be uniquely your voice. I’m happy you seem to have found that legendary “door that opens”!

    • Definitely, Tim has been a really great resource and friend to both Elizabeth and I. He graduated from one of the very first CFC 12 week intensive courses and was the one who encouraged me to go there as it would have been more in line with what I wanted to accomplish. The new part of this process for me is putting ideas down on paper. I’ve always observed the world around me for form or lines I like and try to incorporate them in the furniture I build. I have to say after reflection that this “new door” could be just as exciting! I’m a big believer in “community” and that is what I am finding on this new path.

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