Design: Is it a learnable skill?
Designing vs. building, the creative vs. the practical—there are two distinct aspects to building furniture, and simply because you have technical skill doesn’t mean you naturally have a talent for design
Synopsis: Designing vs. building, the creative vs. the practical—there are two distinct aspects to building furniture, and simply because you have technical skill doesn’t mean you naturally have a talent for design. We ask four talented furniture designers (who also happen to be teachers of woodworking) whether the fundamentals of good design can be taught. Here’s what Hank Gilpin, Laura Mays, Aled Lewis, and Michael Cullen have to say on the subject.
Long before I ever started thinking about designing furniture, I knew I wanted to build furniture. I grew up watching my dad, a mechanical engineer, making things while I hung out in his basement workshop. I was in awe of the way he would look at a spot in our house, envision what he wanted to build based on a need, and then set to work making it. Voila, it was in place and in use as if the house had never been without it. We had built-in shelving, beds, outdoor furniture, radiator covers, and they all looked perfect. What I now realize is that there’s a huge part of the process from the concept to the finished product that I hadn’t noticed or considered. The designing.
At some point I started making things, and I quickly realized how separate yet intertwined and muddled are those two aspects of building furniture. Designing vs. building, the creative vs. the practical—where do the two things separate? Converge?
To see more work from each of the designers inteviewed for
this piece, click the “Launch Gallery” at the bottom of the page.
Clearly, it is possible to learn the techniques of building, and with a lot of time logged one can become skillful at it. Sure, some people have better hands than others; some are more…