Thinking through making week, Newcastle University


FUNCTION: Exploration in the connection of components and re-purposing materials

STUDIO LEADERS: Jack Mutton & Harriet Suttcliffe

DESCRIPTION: ‘Chair’ is an exploitative study into the joints and connections of materials to create a functional form (or chair). The design is nothing complicated, instead it set out to be simply an exploration based off the fact I wished to test my skills in making a chair, hence the simple title of the project. The project was part of my stage 3 graduation project, as such it links to and informs many of my design decisions for the project.

Background: A consideration of the re-purposing of materials and finding joy in the material quality of found objects were key influences in how approached my explorations during ‘Thinking through making week’. The concept encouraged a greater understanding of materials through the process of model making. Studies into found materials gave me a rich experience working with wood and leather, leather being a material I had no experience with prior to my material inquisition. The two contrasting materials, wood being firm and rigid, leather emphasising a more naturally flowing material, worked in unison for the project. Upon reflection, initial designs of the chair, all of which were rough sketches, made reference to the rigid grid typology of the ‘Helix’ atmosphere typology. Exhibiting a rigid grid, the form and stature of the chair resembles comparable qualities to earlier studies.

Process:The concept of my explorations is driven by the initial deconstruction of reclaimed wooden palettes, as the finished product looks to emphasise it’s initial material quality. Taking apart two palettes provided me with the material needed to realise my initial sketch design of the chair, whilst giving me an idea of the quantities available. Both the design and construction of the chair were based largely on these quantities and provided constraints in it’s composition. Part of the process of reclaiming the material was the need to plane the material, partly to clean the used wood, but also to ensure I was working with square measurements. The particularity of making use of used palettes was the need to be resourceful in what was available. The ability to laminate the wood created firm supports from which the chair was shaped and built. This method of lamination itself contained a joyful, detailed material study in the way the wood grains would contrast with one another. This observation in particular was relevant in the CLT structural strategy used later in the development of the scheme.

‘Chair’: The resulting laminations proved to give enough strength to be worked into with a drill, creating holes for joining the wood together without the use of glue. Each connection was meticulously calculated to be the perfect fit for the joining of the frame, these precise joints ensured a rigid frame could be constructed to take a persons weight. The way the materials connected with one another again, highlighted an enjoyable feature of the chair, the additional work transposed into seamless connection of materials. Upon constructing the frame and checking it’s stability, I began the delicate work of joining the leather wrap which would create the seat for the chair. The dark leather contradicts the static form of the frame as it moves naturally around its structure. The contrast in colour, choosing a dark leather against a light wood finish highlights the dominance of the raw movement of the leather wrap. This, in combination with the rigidity of the reclaimed palette frame induced a material exploration rich in divergence of materials which both oppose one another, whilst working in conjunction in forming an object.