Exhibit Features Furniture Inspired by History
There’s plenty of reason for furniture designers and woodworkers to feel a connection with history. The craft has its own lineage and traditions, and the works of craftsmen – furniture and other objects – are often preserved as artifacts of important historical events. Thomas Jefferson’s writing desk leaps to mind.
That connection takes on a different perspective in an exhibit opening this weekend at the historic home of President Theodore Roosevelt. A group of student designers will show work that was specifically influenced by the site’s history and makes use of trees (cherry, maple and pin oak) taken from the site itself. The 25 objects range from small hand-crafted books to large-scale furniture pieces.
The exhibit is part of a teaching program at the Rhode Island School of Design that uses fallen trees from historic sites to help students learn history and practice interpreting it in their work.
Dale Broholm, a design instructor at RISD, said that research – whether it is a search for inspiration or historical background – is a key component of design, regardless of whether the designer is a pro in a studio or a hobbyist in a home shop.
“Knowledge is what informs design,” he added.
Broholm and colleague Daniel Cavicchi work together, with Cavicchi teaching the history and Broholm helping students with their designs. The pair also work with the National Park Service to collect the trees and to mount the exhibitions. Students visit the site, study its history and then create a work whose design draws on what they have learned.
The show at Sagamore Hill, Roosevelt’s home, runs through June 5. A PDF catalog of the show is available on the historic site’s web page.
RISD student Felicia Hung built this L-shaped bench from two distinct species (cherry and maple) to symbolize Roosevelt's peace-making role at the end of the Russo-Japanese war.
Ben Kicic built this tall chair to symbolize Roosevelt's larger-than-life persona and his love for the outdoors.