Thursday, 30 September 2010

A new place for my ideas (sketches mostly)

I recently had a birthday and a lovely friend of mine gave me this awesome paper book to store all of my ideas. I've been very nervous to use it though as it's paper based and I didn't want to trash it in my bag as I cycle to and from work each day. Last night my lovely wife was kind enough to give me a hand made leather book that her aunty made many years ago. This is now the home to my ideas center and is keeping it nice and safe as I travel around with it. With my ideas center close to me I am sure to capture everything as it comes to mind, no more forgotten ideas.

Designers - who's your inspiration?

This morning I became so very excited when I found out that my favourite architect has also designed some rather unique and interesting furniture items. I have no idea why I'd not come across it before and it shows that I need to be doing more and more research. The only problem is that I'm a hands on person rather than a research and reading kind of person. I'd much prefer to build but I realise that without knowledge anything I do make could and most likely will be fundamentally flawed. Fruthermore, I do beleive that in order to take something to a new level you first need to know where it's come from and how it got to be what it is now to truly appreciate what ever it is. This is a process that i've applied (and continue to apply) to my swing dance teaching and exploration of european ballrooming and traditional american blues dancing. It is important to me that something isn't merely misappropriated for the short term gain of a misinformed and uneducated individual and/or group (which has happened unfortuantely in the Australian dancing scene). As such, I vow to do the appropriate research and educate myself as much as possible in order to be a positive contributor to the furniture making industry.

Potential Fibres

In my quest to ensure that every aspect of this next project is sustainable and environmentally friendly I set about searching for solutions to padding/cushions for the stools. Initially I thought I could use Wool Felt but after investigating sources for it here in Australia I'm going to be flagging it as an alternative due to the cost and processing. I don't realistically see it being a cost effective way of going despite how easy it would be to work with. However, I'm remaining open to the idea on the off chance that I come across someone local that can help me with the specifications I need.

The next on my list of potential, and very high on that list, is Kapok. This fibre is currently being organically, ethically and sustainably farmed in Java Indonesia with one supplier claiming that a second plantation is in the works for Sumatra. Being an overseas source I would be going against one of my greatest desires of using locally produced materials. BUT! After looking at the properties of Kapok, I am very interested in how I could use it for this project and future projects. Perhaps I can look at the supply chain and see how good that is to better determine the viability of such a material for use in my projects.
Once I sort out the padding situation I'll need to sort out the coverings for the padding, something I'm hoping to approach a textiles designer by the name of KT Doyle about. The work that KT does is nothing short of inspirational - be sure to check out her blog.

I still need to do a lot more research in to the possible fibres that would be suitable for stool padding/cushions and am hoping I come across something that is fairly easily sourced, not to expensive but more importantly is friendly to the environment. If any of you out there know of materials or suppliers that might be able to assist please let me know by posting a comment to this post. Sorry, no eye candy in this blog post but I will be posting more as it comes to hand.

Why I didn't mention this earlier but Bamboo is also on the cards as a potential fabric/wadding. There are a number of options out there for bamboo fabrics and waddings. The material excites me, Big Kev style!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Rocker Stool - inital concept

The other morning I finished some initial concepts for some rocker stools (which I've been playing with for about 3 months now) and decided to do a quick render of them - the lighting is bad and textures aren't right but you'll get the idea. This particular stool will be made primarily from Marine Ply or Bamboo and have a number of 10mm dowel rods running through them for both strength and aesthetic. While Marine Ply and Bamboo are the desired materials, I've come across some nice work by Ryan Frank that makes use of recycled ply, particle board and other materials. His work is challenging my idea of the optimum materials to use, something that I will need to sort out in the coming months.What isn't showing in the render is some of the finer detail which I've intentionally left off, I don't want to give everything away. :)

The purpose of a rocker stool is to overcome what appears to be an inate desire almost every person has - which is to rock on any stool from the moment they site down. Through my observation and conversation it has become fairly clear that people have a tendancy to sit down and throw their pelvis back, thus lifting the front legs of a stool. Worst yet is I see people sit down and throw their hips from side to side which creates a harsh rocking motion from one side of legs to the other. Why people do it I don't know, but I do know that it quickly reduces the life expectancy of stool legs and places a load in a direction that most stools are not designed to. The rocker stool will attempt to address these load issues and user desires in a somewhat aesthetic manner (see note above about deliberately leaving detail out of the render).

The rocker stool can be flipped over to be a stationery stool should the user not wish to have the rocking motion. I see this stool's working life to be mostly in cafe's and funky little coffee joints around the world yet being an accessible and viable piece in anyone's home. Whilst I am showing a bare wood stool below, there will be a felt padding that can be attached to either side of the chair via magnets. When not in use the magnets will hold this felt to the underside of the seat area. Both seat areas have a a small lip on the underside to allow for magazines and newspapers to be placed into the base without the sliding out while rocking.

As always here's your eye candy:

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Slotted Design as a construction method

Today I spent a little more time researching the use of slotted panels as a construction technique and stumbled across an example that further confirms my early tests. The following example is an illustration of just how solid, sturdy and reliable the structure is while under force. I'm almost convinced that this could be an avenue to explore further with some of the current designs I'm playing with. The comfort level 'looks' to be ok but without actually making some prototypes it will be hard to determine the correct spacing for the grid. Too far apart and it will be mighty uncomfortable, too close together and excessive materials / construction time become a limiting factor.

Food for thought and something I'm definitely going to be exploring further. For now though enjoy the eye candy from the Chick 'n' Egg chair by Manuel Kretzer. Hard to believe that it is 100% cardboard.

The designer suggests that the form was completely modelled in Rhino with further support coming from Grasshopper. Having already experimented in this kind of construction in a 3D environment I can confirm that it wouldn't have been an easy task setting the cutting templates up for this project.

Someone has already made a piece of software that makes this kind of construction easier with a low cost entry barrier and low learning curve. However, the software is limited in its functions, based on Processing and only runs on one operating system. While it shows promises of being something great it will require substantial development. Something that I hope the software developers are working on now. I shall post more about this radical software in the coming days.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Exploration of Shape Intersection

So, as I alluded to in my last post, one of the stools I've been tinkering with has taken a slightly different direction to the original sketches. Below is an experiment in shape intersection and a combination of slotting for ease of construction, which incidentally provides an enormous amount of natural rigidity and strength, and steam bending.

I have a fascination for organic shapes and these experiments will be a good lead into the final work pieces. Steam bent wood brings a whole other level of natural movement and shape. Something that I will be exploring further in the coming months.

enjoy the eye candy of what would be, if i built it now, a plywood stool with steam bent dowel. I have another seat that I've been tinkering with that really pushes the idea of slotting as a valid construction method.

Eco Stools - a furniture series with a big future

So as part of my study into organic connections and naturally strong structures I'm working on a series of stools that will be the base of my eco-stool range. My aim for this range is to produce a series of functional stools and chairs that are visually appealing, functional and environmentally sustainable. The first part of this process is to work on the designs in a digital environment allowing me to accurately model the structure and thus calculate load forces, experiment with different materials and varrying finishes. This will help me keep the waste, cost and environmental impact to a minimum.

At the moment I'm totally taken with two different yet highly versatile materials - bamboo and plywood.

Plywood has been around since 3500BC where there is evidence of sawn veneers being glued together crosswise to form wooden articles. The primary purpose was to give the illusion of high quality when infact the substrate that the veneers were being glues to was of a low quality. Why'd they do this? The abundance of fine/high quality wood was somewhat lacking and by using a lower quality wood with veneer the effect of opulance was achieved easily.

Plywood didn't become as we know it today until the 1900s with the invention of the rotary lathe by Immanuel Nobel (father to Alfred Nobel the man behind the Nobel prize). This particular lathe helped revolutionise the way in which veneers where cut and opened up a whole new world of possibilities to the wood species from which veneers could be sourced.

Bamboo has equally been around for a very long time with its origins dating back several thousand years to the chinese. Where it was used for many different things ranging from writing on, shoes, tiles, coats, and cooking. Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on the face of the earth and as such makes it an ideal resouce for mass harvesting and leaving little to no impact on the environment.

However, it is only in recent years that the harvesting and manufacture of bamboo products has really come to the fore. Whilst bamboo fabrics, small workable pieces of timber and matting is readily available, the production of bamboo in a plywood form or in a solid sheet form still remains somewhat of a new thing and not easily sourced.

The good news for me though is that there are a number of people embracing this material and are beginning to produce the kind of product that make it possible to produce high quality furniture items. One such manufacturer/grower is based right here in Queensland Australia and is quite literally just over an hour away from my home.

I'm hoping in the coming months to make a trip up to meet with these people to chat to them about the process of harvesting and manufacture of Bamboo and to see what they have on offer that I might be able to use in this series of furniture.

My goal is to have 3 prototypes made before Christmas of 2010 with a release of 5 stools/chairs within the first quarter of the new year. The plan to have items for sale is fast becoming a reality and I've hooked up with an importer/distributer of high end furniture in Brisbane and am in discussions with them about the possibility of them promoting/distributing my work to the greater Australian region. I'm also making inroads to potentially having a friend in Milan do some promoting for me to the local stores. Oh how nice it would be to be at the Milan Furniture Fair exhibiting my goods.

So here's a sneak peak at one of the stools I'm working on right now (it has since taken a slightly different diretion though) with a second and third currently in early conceptualisation stages. Not only am I exploring the possibilities of plywood and bamboo as building materials but I'm exploring the use of alternate media for finishing the pieces - including using felt, bamboo fabrics, recycled/reclaimed/eco threads, ribbons and buttons.

Baby Change Table

So recently I built a baby change table. Why? Because I wasn't satisfied with the quality of product on offer in all of the baby stores out there. Not to mention the price point on these things, which leads me to a comment made by someone close to me "why didn't you just buy an ikea one". While I appreciate what Ikea are trying to do with their sustainability and environmental goals I didn't want to buy into a throw away furniture lifestyle and I already had a large pile of timber laying about that was just begging to be used.

It took me two weekends of building, pulling apart painting, putting back together, putty and more paint and finally I ended up with something that fits perfectly into the room, addresses all of the requirements my lovely wife had and above all - CAN HOLD OVER 80KG. Yes, I did test it out.

Here's the eye candy for you:


Window Bed

As part of the process for setting up the nursery I wanted to make a window bed so that my wife had somewhere to laydown and rest while being with the baby. Looking at the most material efficient way of doing it I came up with the plan to rip two sheet of flat stock up the middle and stick it to a stud frame. One weekend later and voila, we have a window bed - sans padding. I've got the padding in the workshop ready to be cut to size and the convered but I'm awaiting a loan of my mother in-laws sewing machine.

The window bed has 4 large hinged lids that open up to give direct access to the storage compartment underneath. I've built it in such a way that the two halves could be separated if required - which I envisage will happen as the baby grows and moves into a proper bed. Only time will tell if we end up changing the layout of the window bed or not.

For now, the eye candy: