Friday, August 05, 2011
The World Is Full Of Two-Legged Stools And We Wander In Search Of The Third
Kagen Schaefer is a Denver woodworker. He's a mathematician, but he's not that into it. He likes to make things out of wood. The mathematician part shows through anyway.
His creations are not a joke. I've seen many people that design and build furniture that looks like a bad joke, poorly told. Deliberately crooked. One Chippendale claw foot reaching out to grab its ball, rolled away. Upside down. Anally-retentive finish on fussy materials and an antiseptic design with a big, bent rusty nail pounded into it for a knob. Chairs you can't sit in. That sort of thing.
Furniture is like architecture and a very few other disciplines in that it cannot be solely an intellectual exercise. Architects amuse themselves at the expense of the occupants more often than not, now. The other end of the spectrum is people who make things bereft of any sign of style, proportion, or artistry. There is a circular continuum of this approach, and you crash into one another at the perigee of the approach from polar opposite styles: IKEA asceticism isn't any better than woodworkers lovingly crafting klunky end tables out of ropy oak boards in their basement. The same thing is missing from both.
Look at Kagen's workshop. Compare it with Wednesday's example. I did not want to comment on items not in evidence, your honor, but when I saw all those tools jammed into the previous workshop, the first thing that came into my mind was: I bet he makes homely furniture, and not much of it. I apologize if I'm wrong, which is easy for me because I know I'm not.
"Commodity, firmness, and delight" is the three-legged stool of furniture design, and architectural design, too, of course, where the rule of thumb comes from. I strive for it every day, in my own meager way. Is it sturdy; comfortable and useful; is it beautiful? We cannot fault Kagen, for lingering so long on the delightful part, can we? He didn't skimp on the other two, after all.