What I did in the Holidays
Well, there’s a lesson plan for week one right there!
This year I have set myself the task of blogging at least once per month as part of the #edblogNZ challenge.
The topic for this month is, logically, to set some goals for the year. However, since my last few posts have been about my journey of being part of the development of a new school at Rototuna Junior High school, which has been very much about setting goals, I thought that I would just tell you what I did in the holidays!
So that I can have a complete break from education I consume myself with my other passion; designing and making fine furniture.
Making furniture that is Competent, Connected, and Lifelong lasting.
My quest is make furniture that is of the highest quality. To achieve excellence in furniture making requires removing any qualifiers. I can’t say it is excellent considering the raw material that I start with, or it is excellent given the genus of the tree, or excellent considering the time and resources that I have been provided to transform it from a sapling or juvenile into a Thomas Chippendale. It has to be excellent because it exceeds all forms of measurement and expectations.
To achieve excellence in furniture design you must work with the grain; you may have a fixed idea of what it is going to look like but unless you work with the raw material at the pace that it dictates you will never achieve your goal. Furniture making require patience,
an ability to change direction when one method is not working, and an ability to constantly critique your work. My quest is about achieving a disposition; how might I create furniture that tells a story? It is not about content; how can I learn to make perfect dovetails?
By its very nature bespoke furniture is personalised, it is made specifically for a place or a person and meets their needs, not the needs of the organisation. One of the ways that I personalise my furniture is that instead of numbering drawers in the traditional manner of 1, 2, 3, I will use the initials of the intended owner. Of course when designing furniture for a client it is very much about listening to what they want.
Universal Design for Lounging
Different timbers shrink and expand at at different rates. Furthermore, their shrink rates vary between the direction of across the grain and with the grain. It is very important to allow for this when designing a piece. If you design for the median bell curve movement, then half of your furniture will show cracks. The designer must accommodate the timbers with the most needs. Of course the easy method is to design for the most challenging of timbers as what is good for one timber is good for all timbers.
This is the stuff of Antiques Roadshow. Authenticity, how does the owner and the future owners, the person who assesses the furniture as being of value to them, know that it is the genuine article made by me. For each piece of furniture, I write on the inside the date that it was made and who the client was; I include information about the material and where it was sourced from. I also include a small piece of Beech somewhere in each piece; this is my motif. Each piece of furniture is unique and has its own story to tell. It is this feedback to the owner that explains that the design of the piece is a result of my combined knowledge built up over time.
A culture of continuous learning
I do not just go into my studio and knock up a piece of predetermined furniture; it is a process. I draw many sketches, I model, I make mock-ups, I experiment, I do test pieces to hone my skills before I apply them to the client’s work. I also read magazines, engage on social media, and attend workshops to keep up-to-date. This year I am looking forward to developing new skills with the use of a laser cutter. Not only do I want to learn new skills, I want to model learning new skills.
Furniture is social
Furniture is social and its design is socially constructed, it has a language of its own (semiotics). Furniture is a representation of our beliefs and values, it represents our social standing. It also tells our story by the way the design and the materials have been used. Different cultures interpret the importance of form, function, and decoration in different hierarchies. We can not judge one customers design preferences through our own cultural lens. In short, you can not understand the furniture design without knowing the person for whom it was designed.
What have I learned?
So now that the holidays are over I need to think about education, what it is to be a learner, and how can I ensure excellence in education. Surely if I place the learner at the centre, remember that it is not about the product, but the person. Remember that learning is not constrained in a silo, that all learners have their own story to tell, to share my own journey as a learner, and ensure that I provide feedback that builds learning and relationships. Then, and only then, I can ensure that we Connect, Inspire, and Soar.
Terry Beech January 2016