This year I plan to learn more about the designers of the antique furniture that is so coveted by everyone, and try to figure what it is about their pieces beside there fine workmanship that draws people to them, and if they can help me learn to design better myself, I know this has been done by many people before me, but it has to be a personal journey for me to learn and not something that I read on a website. I hope that by studying the history of furniture designers it will give me a more refined eye for details, proportions, and balance. I also want to learn how to use material better as a feature in my designs, like more exposed joinery, veneers, and making it all flow together better. By taking this little trip through time I hope to get to a better understanding of their designs and a better appreciation for them.
Designing for me has never been the easiest or most enjoyable part of woodworking. That’s why I became a tradesman instead of a designer. I get ideas all the time for furniture, but I struggle to get them from the brain bucket to the bench. Honestly ideas always seem to come easier to me when the wood is in my hand and I am in the thick of the project, rather than when I am sitting at my desk trying to rack out the detail of the piece. A friend of mine who is an interior designer says I’m putting the cart in front of the horse, and if I take the time to improve my own designing abilities, and knowledge I will notice a huge improvement in my work. I really can’t argue with him, but I think for many of the craftsmen I know it is the natural process to design on the fly. The problem I think comes from the fact that design was not something that I was taught during my woodworking education.
To improve, I think I need to understand how I design. First I’ll need to pick the process apart into its elements, then pick each element apart to see what I can improve on, seek out the knowledge that will help me improve, implement what I am learning, test the new skills to see if they produce results, and then do the whole thing all over again until I am satisfied with my designing skills.
Right now this is how I would design a normal small piece of furniture
1, Get an idea
2, Draw many sketches until I have something I like (brainstorming)
3, Make a shop drawing (without details) 3 view, and prospective
4, Make a cut list
5, Make a story stick and full size patterns if it is a piece that I plan on reproducing.
I always fine that I will start getting ideas about the details as the piece starts going together, but this sometimes make me wish that I would have done one or more things different at the start like used a different style of leg or wood type, an by doing so would of taken a nice piece to great piece.
So let the journey begin, first stop England, to get to know Thomas Chippendale, which I will talk about in my next design blog