Monday, 16 March 2015

Storyboard Furniture in Support of Leaf at the Green Living Show: Designing Sharpe's Hedra.

We are proud to announce that our "Sharpe's Hedra" was recently selected as one of twelve designs toward the maple leaf forever design exhibition and auction organized by LEAF.  The designs will be on display at the green living show and auctioned off onlineA portion of the proceeds for this project will support LEAF's urban forestry initiatives. 

The good folks at LEAF asked me to write this piece describing my design process toward making Sharpe's Hedra. I hope you enjoy it!  

First of all, I just want to say what an honour it is for my work to have been selected for inclusion among so many talented designers and craftsmen

My piece, “Sharpe’s Hedra” was initially inspired by the purity of geometry. My father earned his living as a mathematician, or more specifically a geometer. When I was a child, over meals, my father would present me with mathematical quandaries and other puzzles. This was an important part of my formative years. In thinking about it now, I realize just how much of an impact it has had in my life. Mathematics is perhaps the only discipline in which there is always a concrete answer or solution to a problem. I feel as though this early childhood education wired me to believe that there are but a few impossibilities in life and always to approach a challenge with this understanding. It has also provoked me to create challenges for myself.

This warm tradition of puzzling over meals with my father has continued into my adulthood. On meeting for breakfast some months ago, I presented my father with a geometric quandary of a fractal nature. We were not able to solve the problem directly as my vectors were faulty, on account of the corners not having the right relationship with the faces. But it did lead to a conversation about geometric duals. Which would ultimately lead to the development of a variant of a cube and its dual: “Sharpe’s Hedra”.

My formal education is in the delicate, and at times ephemeral, study of the fine arts and design. Ostensibly, one might say that it was an education of material science and craftsmanship. I studied at NSCAD University; in the jewellery studios I learned how to make things, and in the sculpture studios I learned why to make them.

After the breakfast with my father, I got out my sticks and hot glue and started in on establishing the geometry. I further created a mock-up in acrylic sheet. From the get go, I knew that I was creating a lamp and that it would need some sort of screen to soften the lamp glow. Paper seemed to be a natural solution. This far in my design process, I had figured out the ‘how’. The geometry was sound and materials made sense. But in terms of the whole piece, there was still the ‘why’ to be sorted out…

So much of the work I have been doing in the last three years has been attempting to honour the connections that people have developed with the now felled trees in their lives. One of the remarkable things that I have discovered from these efforts is the difference between the inside and the outside of these trees. There is a hidden beauty in the grain waiting to be discovered and each tree is unique in this way. 

Many sculptors historically have made this claim; that 'it' was always inside waiting to be revealed. For the first time in my life I can join their ranks with this clear in my mind. I have also noticed that while so many people are connected to the trees in their life, not so many are up to speed on their species identification. I am the first to admit that I am no specialist in this respect either. The paper needed perforations to allow heat dispersion from the bulb. I took this as an opportunity: seeing it as both a design challenge and as learning moment, to learn about species identification. The paper cutout pattern would reference the leaf or leaf cluster of the species of wood that the overall geometric structure was made from. This helped with the ‘why’.

Another design query related to the question of scale. There was a sculpture professor at NSCAD, someone I never took courses from, or, frankly, even had occasion to speak with. Nonetheless, I developed an appreciation of this professor through my fellow students, who seemed to have figured out something that would become very relevant to me. I suppose what they had learned from this professor was something fundamental about relating: the importance of asking “how does it relate to me?”

Can I walk through it? Can I stand next to it? Will it dwarf me? Can I hug it? 

"Can I hug it?” really stuck with me. It makes it a question of human scale. This helped with the ‘why’. This derivative tutelage was helpful for the overall volume of the project but the skeletal structure elements still needed their scale. I let the material speak to this aspect.

Many of the tables I make are book-matched from two pieces of wood. To join these while keeping an appropriate overall table width, I often end up with long off-cuts that fill up my shelves. So I designed the dimension of these skeletal structural pieces to give a second life to the off-cuts of the lumber that have had a second life. The ‘why’s’ had finally became enough to consider producing the product in earnest. … 

On naming the work: my understanding is that this variant of a cube and its dual is of a new geometry. Sharpe is my father’s namesake, and Hedra, related to Hedron; of being in relation to faces or geometric planes. In naming it thus, I had hoped to honour a part of my father’s life that has become my heritage. In a similar way, I feel it a privilege to have the opportunity to work with wood that has such an important relevance to our Canadian heritage: the maple leaf forever tree. And while I support, unconditionally, all of the efforts that have been put toward preserving the heritage of this tree, I hope that we understand that it is a celebrity, no more and no less than the hundreds of trees that fall or are felled every day in Toronto. As a brother, sister, mother, uncle or spouse, someone has a connection to each and every one of these trees. In a moment of serendipity, I have come to understand, while writing this text, that Hedra translates from Swedish to “honour” in English.


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