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Call for Submissions: Get design help from Fine Woodworking and Hank Gilpin

comments (13) October 7th, 2009 in blogs

MKenney Matthew Kenney, special projects editor
thumbs up 26 users recommend

Top-notch design. Hank Gilpin is a one of the best furniture designers and makers around.
Design and construction improved. Gilpin took a look at a prototype for this bench, and his suggestions improved its comfort and weather resistance.
Top-notch design. Hank Gilpin is a one of the best furniture designers and makers around. - CLICK TO ENLARGE

Top-notch design. Hank Gilpin is a one of the best furniture designers and makers around.

Photo: Jon Binzen

Furniture makers are confronted with two challenges. Many of us spend most, if not all, of our time trying to master the tools and techniques of the craft. Unfortunately, that means we spend little time tackling the second challenge: mastering the art of designing furniture. And that’s a shame, because all the technical skill in the world won’t save an ugly piece of furniture.

Of course, it’s hard to improve your design skills without help, and that’s where we come in. We’ve arranged to have the work of four readers critiqued by furniture designer and maker Hank Gilpin. Hank’s sense of design is impeccable, and his technical skills are top shelf too. So the guidance you’ll receive will concern both design and construction, and will help you become a more confident and successful furniture maker.

Our plan is to invite two of you to Hank's shop in Rhode Island so that he can see you piece in person. For the other two readers, we'll have professional photos taken of your piece and Hank will critique those. We'll document the entire process in words, photographs, and video, and publish an article in the magazine and a video on the website. The article and video will be similar to the Dovetail Doctor and Sharpening Doctor features.

Here are some guidelines for submitting your work.

  1. Email us pictures of your work, along with a few words describing each photo. Take photos from various angles, and zoom in for a couple of detail shots.
  2. The piece should be one that you designed and made. Period reproductions can be beautiful, but we’re interested in developing your design skills, not Sir Thomas Chippendale’s.
  3. It doesn't matter when it was made. Perhaps the finish is still drying. Maybe it's been in the living room for 20 years. Either way, that's okay with us.
  4. Leave your ego behind, but bring your desire to improve. If you have trouble taking constructive criticism, this opportunity isn't for you.
  5. Tell us who you are, where you live (just a city and state are fine), and if you could bring yourself and your piece to Rhode Island.
  6. Tell us if you'd be willing to rebuild your piece, taking Hank's suggestions into account.

I have personal experience with Hank’s critical eye. Back in the Spring, I designed and made a garden bench for our Video Workshop series. As part of that video series, I visited Hank to learn about outdoor furniture design. I also took along a full-size prototype of the bench to get some constructive criticism from Hank. I’m very happy I did, as he showed me a few ways to improve the weather-resistance and comfort of the bench. He also suggested several ways to develop the design more fully. I learned a great deal that day, and I’m already putting what I learned to good use as I design a jewelry cabinet for my wife, at least what I learned about developing the details and motifs of a design. It won’t be an outdoor jewelry cabinet!

We can all get better at design. Your session with Hank will help thousands of other woodworkers just like you. Send your pics and info to:

10/14/2009: It's reasonable to wonder who Hank Gilpin is if you've never heard of him. Here is a profile that we did on him a few years back. Also, use our search to find some of his furniture and a few articles. He has been in the gallery and on the back cover numerous times. The quality of his furniture, both in terms of design and construction, speaks for itself. You might not like it, but I think you'd be hard pressed to deny it's quality.

posted in: blogs, design, hank gilpin, doctor

Comments (13)

MKenney MKenney writes: APO,

Sorry, I just saw your question. Selection will be made very soon. I don't want to give an exact time frame so as not to disappoint if something unexpected happens.

Posted: 10:48 am on January 21st

APO APO writes: Any idea when a selection will be made,,,
Posted: 8:58 pm on December 21st

MKenney MKenney writes: RedF

We're still accepting submisssions. So send them in.
Posted: 3:55 pm on November 12th

Red_F Red_F writes: Is there a timeline for this? Have I missed it already?
Posted: 10:28 pm on November 11th

jcwnr jcwnr writes: I am not a writer and I like the way you write, using words for color, spice and to convey and generate enthusiasm. I am a well known architect, in my licensed state at least, for my design skill in my area of expertise. I have served on design competition juries, been interviewed by newspapers, given at least 50 speeches on the topic that I am passionate about. I have influenced the development and refinement of a design theory.
I wish I would have been the first to post a response to your announcement. It is a terrific idea.
One thing about juried competitions – usually even the winners do not get constructive feedback. My work has gotten better over the years because I have been able to thrash it out one to one and three to five with incredibly talented designers in my area of interest.
Best regards, Joe

Posted: 9:41 am on November 1st

Smith5963 Smith5963 writes: Mr. Kenny
I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my post.

So, according to you the dictionary isn't a reliable source for the definition of a word?

Now if I understand the rest of your post (which given your understanding of the role of a dictionary, I have my doubts) your explanation of Mr. Gilpin's design talents somehow go from 'impeccable' to 'good' and ends up as 'nice'.

OK well at this point I think what I will do is just pretend I never asked the question in the first place.

Oh and btw if laughing really does cause you to worry well you have my sympathy.
Posted: 7:43 pm on October 18th

MKenney MKenney writes: Smith5963

I, of course, chose the word impeccable. I suppose we could argue about whether or not the denotation of the word applies here (I think it does). But I believe the connotation does. In other words, I think that how the word is used by average, but intelligent, people would cover how I've used it. Dictionaries, while helpful, are neither exhaustive nor authoritative.

As for who thinks Hank's sense of design is that good. Well, I do, so do many others here at the magazine, and so too have hundreds, if not thousands, of satisfied customers thought it excellent. But, more importantly, his design abilities have been demonstrated across a broad range of fields, from furniture making, to landscape design, to the design of tunnels and interiors. Regardless of the object, Hank does a nice job.

You might not like his work. So be it. Don't participate.

Finally, I try not to find my humor in others. I'm always worried that while I'm looking at others and laughing, I fail to notice something even more laughable about myself.
Posted: 4:54 pm on October 15th

Smith5963 Smith5963 writes: Perhaps my previous comment is in need of a little cleanup.

The post was intended to be directed towards the author of the post Mr. Kenny (I return to this post to see if he responded). I found the use of the term 'impeccable' a little pretentious (and a little humorous) and just to drive to point home consider the following:

1 : not capable of sinning or liable to sin
2 : free from fault or blame : flawless

The question was who not what but regardless do you really what to claim that 'makes money at it' = good (impeccable) design?

I certainly wouldn't disagree with your comment but you know what they say when we 'assume'. I am not familiar with 'Launching the Imagination' however I am aware of the importance of the imagination in the creative process. Another interesting book on this subject is 'Conceptual Blockbusting' by James Adams.

Posted: 1:40 pm on October 15th

DavePanetta DavePanetta writes: most likely - who decided that "Hank’s sense of design is impeccable".... was success at what he does. He makes money at it. more than what a lot of us do. Many of us don't even break even - that's why we just say its a hobby for us. I am way to slow at my projects to "make" money.
Posted: 8:00 am on October 14th

spinnb8 spinnb8 writes: My assumption is that Hank is regarded as a good designer because he has studied principles of 2 and 3d design and then implemented these fundamentals into his work. It is one thing to be able to build something and build it well, it is another thing to have a good eye for aesthetics. oftentimes one person does not do both of them well, If you are yearning to learn principles of design (applying to furniture, drawing, illustration, painting, sculpture, architecture, whatever it is universal) pick up a copy of a book called "Launching the Imagination" .
I teach 2d and 3d design at the college level, and this is one of the texts that we use.

Posted: 6:38 am on October 14th

mvflaim mvflaim writes: I submitted a piece. Let me know what you think
Posted: 6:04 pm on October 13th

APO APO writes: Anyone that has made a business of designing and building unique pieces of turniture is definitely far more of an expert than most of us. I have submitted my most difficult project for critique and welcome any comment. Most preferable the negative comments as tney will provide the type of information I need to become a better furniture maker.
Posted: 1:33 pm on October 8th

Smith5963 Smith5963 writes: wondering who decided that "Hank’s sense of design is impeccable"....
Posted: 11:44 am on October 7th

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