The Evolution of My Designs

@bearkatwood writes in, “What prompted you to make such a bold departure from the Appalachian post and rung chair you made for so long, and in what direction would you like to steer your design style in the future?”

Well, if, there’s a lot of missing pieces in what most people have seen and what will look like a big directional change, it was actually a very slow evolution over literally decades. Pretty early on, I would say 25 years ago, I started playing with joints outside of the post and rung construction, and just in drawing what I understood of the joint mechanics of ladder back chairs, the post and rung pieces I was making, I wanted to just imagine what would be the strongest possible joint in a round-legged chair or in two parts that had a very organic relationship rather than something more geometric as is typically found in furniture.

At that point, I came up with what I call the universal joint, which I recently wrote about in an article that was published in Fine Woodworking Magazine. That sort of laid the foundation of rethinking how furniture, in particular chairs, came together and fed a lot of my design potential possibilities and experiments.

So it wasn’t so much a departure, but a growing one, not just sticking with something that was … I have stuck with a lot of those. We continue to make them. In fact, I’m working on a set of ten right now, so it is time-honored, and we still honor that design, but there are a lot of other ways to put things together. I will continue to explore them. I wouldn’t say it has a particular direction other than to be somewhat more contemporary, and that’s just because the ideas that are coming to me are streamlined and have fewer parts and require more robust joinery and therefore look somewhat more contemporary.

But the direction is just an exploration of ergonomics. It’s not seeing something down the road that I’m going towards. It’s working with something on my bench that I’m developing, and I just tend to kind of follow my nose with that.

I do listen to what clients are saying and people that visit us at shows, so I am influenced by the direction, I guess, that modern design is going in because we do need to sell this stuff, but other than that, it’s pretty much just flat out exploring and trying new stuff, not without direction, but just an exploration of ergonomics.