Post Critique Reflections
Last Thursday marked the halfway point of our capstone project year, and the end of our first semester. As is tradition we had a critique in which each student is asked to present their concept, research and design development to instructors, peers and an impartial guest.
In the weeks building up to the critique I decided what objects, and to which level of detail and refinement will best showcase the direction and intent of my project. With this in mind I set out to build a half-scale prototype of the "ballast blanket barrel".
My goal with this prototype was to showcase the construction details, proportions and conceptual nature of the design. Taking on this challenge also gave me a constructive outlet for my creativity. I believe the outcome was successful and based on feedback during the critique it helped reinforced the potential strength of the design.
Two memorable comments were regarding the proposed ornamental relief carving that was going to be featured on the lid of the piece. After constructing the case and witnessing the graphic quality of the dovetails I felt it would be excessive, and distracting to carve the top with any imagery. I opted to instead include an engraving of my insignia on the underside using the CNC router. This small detail is tasteful and subtle and reinforces the quality of a contemporary, handmade object. Although I opted out of the engraved top I did emboss a leather handle with the "Pines" motif I had been developing. This too lends nicely to the bespoke nature of the piece.
The critique I received for this decision was positive and opened a discussion over the inherently decorative nature of exposed joinery and the ornamental quality of the form, and function inherent in the object. Having now built and examined the qualities of the small chest I am confident now that any applied ornamental quality in the future must act in support of the form and function of the design or be subtle moments related to the manufacturing. Another comment made about the piece was in regard to its function. Our guest commented that perhaps the piece should work as both a rocking bench that featured a storage area for memorabilia. This comment was made in regard to the narrative of my grandparents I had framed my presentation around. Though I believe the fusion of seating and storage is valid I feel the nostalgic quality of the piece should be more implied to the design, as opposed to it applied to the form.
Accompanying the blanket barrel prototype was a full-scale mock up of the AC rocker. This mockup was intended to give instant feedback on the scale and proportions, ergonomics, comfort and general aesthetics of the final design.
Most of the critical feedback I received from this mock-up was in regard to its ergonomics. Specifically; increasing the radius of the rockers to make it smoother and less dramatic when rocking. Also decreasing the seat to floor angle by lowering the front of the seat and raising the back. Aesthetically, like with the blanket chest it was suggested that the ornamental quality be derived from the form and less so from the application of embossing on the back.
The biggest take away from my presentation was in regard to the theme and conceptual narrative surrounding my collection. This was no surprise to me, it has been difficult to define how my grandparents decorative style can be applied to contemporary design. Also how I use that history and personal connection to elevate my designs without losing myself and my own ideals along the way. Another concern is that the repetition of ornamental motifs could cause the work to be shallow and trendy, even novel.
After reflecting on these notes a few possible solutions or redirections have surfaced.
Firstly, in regard to the narrative, the focus should be on the joy of creative expression that my grandparents celebrated. How as a maker I align myself with beautification and wish to continue this tradition. Instead of mining their aesthetic for nuggets of gold that I can recycle or renew, It should be about representing the philosophy they presented in a new and novel way. As for the designs and their influences. Just as is tradition in the arts and crafts as well as in folk-arts, a representation of my immediate environment; the city and its built history. Just as Bruce and Mary painted villages, farms and rivers I will carve and print condo's, factories, churches and houses. Furniture will reflect an industrial past and a minimal present.