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A Concentration in Iteration

colorful wooden bench
“Patterned – A Bench” by Christina Boy, ash, stain, milk paint

 

There’s something special that happens in the wood studio over the course of a workshop. Students find the patience and focus to work intensely on just a few, longer-term projects rather than a large number of clay pots or a collection of forged utensils. Powerful shop saws transform from intimidating blurs of teeth into efficient and flexible tools. And a new level of precision emerges: the 1/8″ and 1/16″ increments that most of us think in now seem hopelessly clumsy to eyes and brains that have re-calibrated to think to at least the nearest 1/64″.

It’s certainly not magic that allows a solid, artfully-proportioned table or chair to emerge from a rough-sawn pile of lumber, but it can seem like it. That’s why this fall, we’re lucky to have Christina Boy coming to Penland to give students in the woodshop an in-depth opportunity to work through the furniture making process—not once, but a few times over. Her eight-week concentration is appropriately titled Design. Build. Repeat. and it will focus on developing woodworking skills through making multiples.

 

woman in woodworking shop
Christina Boy at home in her shop.

 

As the owner of a one-woman furniture studio in Madison, Virginia, Christina is perfectly positioned to teach students not just how to design and build a chair, but how to fine-tune the design/build process so that making a dozen chairs is as efficient as possible. Over her years in the shop, she has perfected a handful of signature designs that she can make, remake, and remix into new pieces. Her Stool 33, for example, has a hexagonal top made from three sections of wood. Christina can alter the stool’s look by changing the finish or the color of the legs, but she can also use it to make new pieces. One top on the wall becomes a coat rack, and six arranged together in a ring become a honeycomb coffee table. It’s a beautiful approach that creates both efficiency and harmony in her designs.

Design. Build. Repeat. is equally well suited to new students who want to try their hands at woodworking and experienced woodworkers who want to focus on their design skills or learn about small batch production. It will run in the Penland wood studio September 24 – November 17, 2017. Registration is currently open to students of all levels. Read the full course description below, and then join us in the shop!

 

wooden stool and table designs that both incorporate a central hexagon of wood.
Christina Boy’s “Stool 33” on the left and “Table 366” on the right.

 

Design. Build. Repeat.

Christina Boy
September 24 – November 17, 2017

While learning the fundamentals of woodworking technique, tools, and safety, we’ll dive into the process of making multiples. Each student will design a limited line of products from concept to completion: sketching, designing, drafting, making the necessary templates and jigs, and building prototypes for the purpose of understanding the steps of small batch production. Demonstrations will cover basic woodworking skills and will continue in depth based on the needs of each student’s designs and projects. All levels. Studio fee: $155. Code F00W

Christina Boy is a studio artist and former Penland core fellow. She has taught at Arrowmont (TN), Chestnut Creek School of the Arts (VA), and Orange County Libraries (VA) and is represented by Troika Contemporary Craft Gallery (VA) and the Penland Gallery. Her work has been exhibited at La Difference (VA), Penland’s Focus Gallery, Southern Highlands Craft Guild (NC), and Crossroads Gallery (VA).

christinaboydesign.com

 

 

PENLAND FALL CONCENTRATIONS
clay  |  glass  |  iron  |  metals  |  photography  |  wood  |  mixed media
September 24 – November 17, 2017
Register here

 

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Table in a Day!

Penland’s Table in a Day participants with their (mostly) finished creations.

 

The process of designing and making an object can be a slow and laborious one. Good craft takes time. But once a year in the Penland wood studio, time is in very short supply. For the annual Table in a Day Challenge, now in its third year, wood studio residents have only one day to craft a table from start to finish. Pre-planning and sketching are allowed, but all the cutting and construction must happen between 9 AM and 9 PM.

This year, ten seasoned furniture designers rose to the challenge. Armed with donuts, pump-up tunes, and designs (or not), they quickly spread out around the studio and got to work cutting, planing, jointing, and gluing. Meanwhile, up in Baltimore, Penland session 7 instructor Sarah Marriage was taking part remotely, hard at work on her own speed-table.

 

man shaping a wooden table leg
Core fellow Kyle Kulchar shapes a leg for his table (the black one in the center, above).

 

With this much focus and intensity, pieces take shape quickly. By early afternoon, tabletops had been glued up, legs had been shaped, and the energy was palpable. A few hours later, the parts were starting to come together into three-dimensional forms that looked an awful lot like furniture. By 8:45 PM, the artists were in a final flurry of activity brushing paint, wiping finish, and laying the final boards into place. Somehow by 9 PM (or just a few minutes after), a collection of furniture stood where there had only been open floor at the beginning of the day.

 

two women woodworking
Left: Studio coordinator Ellie Richards adding color to her design. Right: Winter residency studio assistant Christina Boy finishing her table as it nears 9 o’clock.

 

As impressive as the participants’ speed and skill was the variety in the pieces they made. The tables ranged in scale from chihuahua-sized to large enough to seat six for dinner. Some highlighted the grain and natural color of the wood, while others employed bright paint and striking textures. Angela St. Vrain, a winter resident, used a piece of blown and slumped glass she’d made as a tabletop; studio coordinator Ellie Richards covered a whole face of her table with quotes she collected from protest posters at the Women’s Marches over the weekend. The legs on winter resident Zoe Alexa’s table were solidly joined at various non-right angles, and core fellow Elmar Fujita mixed and matched a pair of turned legs with two straight, square ones.

 

woman building a table
Core fellow Elmar Fujita attaching the legs to her Table in a Day creation.

 

All told, it was a day full up with some of the best the studio can bring: camaraderie, creativity, costumes, big skill, and lots of energy. Just don’t ask them to do it again tomorrow.

See more photos from Table in a Day in the slideshow below. (If you are reading this post as an email, we recommend viewing it on the blog.)

 

Intrepid woodworkers about to start at 8:59 AM.
Game faces
Four hours in and going strong!
Ellie inscribing quotes onto one face of her table.
Morgan putting together the pieces (in costume, of course).
Zoe had to work during the middle of the day, but she still made a mini table!
Bob at the table saw
Angela creating the glass and wood top for her table
Resident artist Annie Evelyn chose to make a 12-hour valet stand, which is sort of like a little table combined with a chair and a coat rack.
Yes, Elmar is rocking a wig.
Ellie with the finished word panel for the side of her table.
A 12-hour time limit doesn't mean you can skimp on sanding!
Paint paint paint
Finishing up in the final minutes.
The finished tables!
Not bad for 12 hours, eh?

 

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Winter Studio Visit: Tom Shields

 

tomshieldspenland5

The chair. A form for one. A group of chairs: a human gathering, a table, a home. Gertrude Stein put it this way: Is there not much more joy in a table and more chairs and very likely roundness and a place to put them.

 

Tom Shields has been messing with wooden chairs—and our domestic contexts for them—for a while now. He collects, breaks, and alters–reworking flat-backs, ladder-backs, whatever chairs he can find by responding to and then rebuilding them into each other. (And away from each other, too.) Even the bank of discarded chairs that Tom keeps as raw material in his Penland studio (below) feels kind of irreverent:

 
 

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It’s not just chairs: irreverence fuels all of Tom’s sculptural “furniture” work. Take this recent commission, made from a group of original Heywood-Wakefield tables:

 
 

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“Blasphemer,” says Tom, grinning as he tells us what one studio visitor called him after seeing the commission. If you’re a mid-century modern junkie, Tom might just be your nemesis. But looking closely, the tables retain their modern context. Form is interrupted and not shattered: the “futuristic” lines and planes are made fluid by Tom’s choices. It’s almost as if the atoms in the birch went haywire and some happy blasphemer came along and set the forms into each other, responding to the tables as potential parts of a larger functional sculpture.

 

In the irreverence in Tom Shields’s work, reverence. To put a finer point on it: in irreverence, reverent play. Gertrude Stein, another blasphemer, would’ve raised her glass. She said in 1935: A very important thing is not to make up your mind that you are any one thing.

 

Photographs by Robin Dreyer; writing by Elaine Bleakney