Friday, March 6, 2009

Furniture Department

In wandering through the furniture department, I found the use of composite materials to be extremely experimental. Students are investigating the implications and physical limits of new and old materials.

I first stumbled upon this interesting sculptural piece. At a first glance, this binding material appears to be pantyhose. But with further exploration, I found the wrapping to be a self adhesive tape which adheres to itself, but not to the objects it holds together. Here it is used to support the piece while glue dries. However, this example reflects a way of approaching combining materials so that they are able to be disassembled and recycled easily.

Next I began a conversation with Nora who creates new pieces of furniture from found objects and new materials. Here, the components of an existing metal and glass lamp combine to become a new composite material incorporated into a larger whole. This leads to many questions: How do we define a composite material as distinct from an object composed of several parts? Do the separate parts of this existing lamp read as individual parts of a new whole or does the lamp exist as a unified single entity which is a component of a larger piece? Does the passage of time and a previous life for the lamp mark the difference?

In the two photos above, Nora has employed an existing metal mould, expanding foam and new wire work to create a stool. She used a two-part solution expanding foam to pour into the found mold to create the cushion for the stool. What is interesting here is that the mould has created part of the form, but also remains a part of the final piece, leading to no waste.

This jig Nora used to form the wire work in the piece above is composed of plywood and other laminates. These are partially recycled materials made from leftover wood parts. However, they fail to consider the environment at every stage as the other ingredients in these composites are toxic, and the laminates themselves are difficult to reuse or recycle. A large volume of material is used not for the piece of furniture itself, but as a support or aid in forming the end product. This creates a huge waste stream when the furniture is finished. What if the students created their own plywood and laminates out of shop scraps to serve as jigs and other forms for draping?

Overall what I observed in the Furniture Department reflected and further opened the ideas of no waste and considering the environment at every stage. What seemed to set Furniture’s approach apart from ID’s is the lessened concern for functionality and reproduction. With these limitations removed, students seemed to experiment more the the possible properties and context of numerous materials.

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