Secrets Unveiled at New Hampshire Furniture Design Symposium
I have to confess that I struggle with furniture design. So I was happy to attend a design symposium last weekend in Derry, N.H. Sponsored and organized by the Guild of New Hampshire Woodworkers, the event featured an all star line-up of well-known New England woodworkers, sharing their personal approaches to design with an enthusiastic group of furniture makers, hungry for design tips.
The day began with a keynote address by Dale Broholm, a faculty member in the Department of Furniture Design at Rhode Island School of Design. Dale focused on how he teaches design at RISD. His 9-Step Plan for Design serves as a guide for students as they move from their freshman through senior years.
The rest of the itinerary was packed: nine lectures, with three happening simultaneously on a rigorous schedule. It was tough to choose. Just look at the expert cast:
- Terry Moore on laminating and veneering and on his design process
- Leah Woods on her design process
- Robert LaCivita, president of the Guild, on hand drawing
- DJ Delorie, a software developer, on SketchUp
- Charles Shackleton on his design process and details
- Howard Hatch on using models and mockups
- Jon Siegel on designing turnings.
I wanted to go to all of them! But the three I did pick–Hatch on models and mockups; Siegel on designing wood turnings; and Shackleton on design details–turned out to be a smorgasbord. By the end of the day, I was stuffed.
The New Hampshire Guild has been around for almost 20 years, and it’s one of the most active I’ve seen in the country. They put on shows like this pretty regularly, so be sure to bookmark their website and check the calendar often.
Keynote address. Dale Broholm (standing, lower left) gives the rundown on his approach to teaching design at RISD. "What came before us can lead to great design," says Dale. "Tooling may change, materials may change, but good design and ergonomics haven't."
Models and mockups. Howard Hatch (left) gets up close and personal with attendees. You can see some of his high-quality mockups on the table. "I don't know if my design is successful until I see it in 3D," says Howard.
The model. A small scale, detailed mockup is a great way to judge proportion and to figure out joinery.
The real thing. The finished piece may not be an exact replica of the model, but you can see how Howard refined the design.
Designing turnings. Jon Siegel clearly enjoys the topic, and gave some great advice for both turners and non-turners alike about designing table and chair legs and bedposts. "Balance the details against the large features," he says.
A word to the wise furniture maker. "Design your furniture to be abused," Jon says, "because it will be."
The details. After a slide show of his furniture designs, Charles Shackleton offered some hands-on help with designs sketched by attendees. He stressed the importance of liking what you design. "Be excited," he says. "Make things that are individual to you."
Time to learn furniture design. The symposium was held on the campus of Pinkerton Academy, in Derry, N.H.