• mackenzietalangton

These are a few of my favourite things...

Børge Mogensen was a key figure in the Danish modernist furniture movement in the mid 20th century. Unlike his contemporaries, Hans Wegner, Finn Juhl and Arne Jacobson, Mogensen’s furniture had a more rigid geometry, relaxed form and an emphasis on ergonomics and construction. His design philosophies were focused on functionalism and utility as opposed to aesthetic and flashy expressionism, this led him to designing furniture that was modest in aesthetic yet highly effective in form.

The Hunting chair represents to me a sort of pure ergonomics, as if it were a tool to measure the geometry of ultimate comfort by chair makers. Another aspect to Mogensen’s furniture that captivates me is the illusion of wear, and weathering I find his work always seems to express admiration and tranquility. His ultimate goal as a designer was creating democratic furniture and I personally wouldn’t cast my vote for anyone else!

BDDW’s chief designer Tyler Hayes is another example of a designer who has the ability to create objects with a rich patina expressing time and wear. Many of BDDW’s work is composed of a myriad of materials which give the work this sense of a global or multi-disciplinary approach to furniture making. The campaign chair represents this material vocabulary perfectly with its many methods and materials from Casting, machining, welding, joining, lashing, stitching, riveting, leather working, turning, sewing, the list goes on. 

I was fortunate to visit their flagship gallery in Soho this year and was dumbstruck by the ethereal atmosphere of the gallery and the rich narrative that surrounds the company and its sister company, M.Crow. In my humble opinion they have succeeded in creating a design category all of their own; some sort of punk-rock-folk-art-post-americana-goldrush-chic-applepie-&-LSD thing and I just want to know, where do I sign up?

Found object and ad-lib art forms are very intriguing to me and never cease to ignite the imagination of my inner-child. “You can’t lay down your memory” is composed of found drawers, rehoused in plywood cases and held in a tense group-hug by a leather belt. As someone who is excellent at finding odd and intriguing objects discarded by society this work has always inspired me in terms of how to arrange and compose these discarded treasures. Also something this piece successfully conjures to me is the conversation about diversity, harmony, composition and the potential material objects have in expressing social-commentary.

This Hudson valley woodworking is as close as I personally like to get to the expanding “shaker-esque” traditional furniture maker community emerging in North America. Nothing against shaker furniture, going back to the land, spindle backed Windsor chairs or converted barn studios. I think those traditions are the corner stones of modern furniture making and woodworking in N.A and, shit who doesn’t like a smooth hand tooled surface?

My critique of many of the makers in that category is the somewhat digressive and, well un-imaginative recycling of forms and styles 200 years old. Robbins is however doing something very different and unpretentious about this classical approach. His work has a radiating warmth and texture and of course an expression of superb craftsmanship. The bend chair is an example of one of his many chairs riffing off traditional chair types yet has a confident and modern form and structure giving it a fresh, yet heirloom quality.

Wharton Esherick’s experimental, sculptural furniture design has had a profound effect on modern design, infact many of Michael Robbins (see previous image) chairs have allusions to Esherick’s joinery and material. This armchair is among his most modest designs but I felt it exemplifies the potential of turning time-honoured furniture forms on their ass. The rear legs and back spindles appear to have flipped and the result is a geometry that is optically confusing. The oversized leather straps that compose the seat also explore the distorting effect of scaling, very common in contemporary design.

Wharton’s design prescribed to the Arts and crafts school of thought, an all encompassing total design that spanned many disciplines and forms from architecture, sculpture, furniture to visual arts. Earlier in his career he also composed, cut and printed many woodblock prints which like many of the A+C artists of the time were rich with romantic, natural motifs. Considering my own interest in both furniture making and woodblock printing I think Wharton Esherick is an excellent bridge between these two interwoven craft forms. 

This Bauhauser is a personal favourite; his exploration of colour, tone, texture, composition and space all expressed through graceful, simple geometry never ceases to amaze. This particular woodblock print represents to me a bridge between the aesthetic of minimalism and the tangible, textural natural form of organic design.  Among Albers many contributions to the graphic arts was his mind altering ‘opt-art’, which is often more disturbing than it is enjoyable. This piece however presents an elegant, yet improbable geometric form in a sort of anti-gravity free fall in a wood grain universe.

M.C Escher was a master print maker whom has recently come to my attention in my exploration of the woodblock medium. Is work is diverse and always incredibly captivating playing with surreal subject matter and mind altering optic allusion (a theme im obviously drawn to in visual art). Drowned Cathedral represents an example of a classic medium used to convey a sense of magic realism and modern social commentary. This is just one example of his work that influences me graphically, his other works exploring "division of the plane" and impossible geometry are also sources of great inspiration graphically.

Geography and history are integral parts of my personal reflection and search for identity as an individual and as a maker. Rosemary Kilbourn holds a special place in my heart as someone who documented and studied the physical geography I occupy living in Southern Ontario. Her work is typical of the arts and crafts woodblock printer always depicting natural environments, often through abstracted and again romantic lenses.

Not sure where to start with this one...Chris Wolston is a wondrous abstract expressionist designer who explores many anthropomorphic and organic forms, employing a diverse pallet of materials and processes. This chair in particular excites me as a designer because it represents the intersection of two major trends in contemporary furniture design; traditional or classical craft and material process (wicker furniture making) and contemporary trends in graphic, expressive, bubbly and bright furniture forms. This chair also makes me think critically about furniture history and truth to material as well as the human form and the ultimate goal as furniture makers in supporting and, sometimes, mimicking its proportions and shape.

Works Cited Børge Mogensen. Accessed September 8th, 2019

BDDW. Accessed September 8th, 2019

Tejo Remi. Accessed September 10th, 2019.

Michael Robbins. Accessed September 10th, 2019

Wharton Esherick. Accessed September 10th, 2019.

M.C Escher. Accessed September 10th, 2019

Rosemary Killbourn. Accessed September 10th 2019

Chris Wolston. Accessed September 11th, 2019.

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