Take a Seat

Today my wife and I headed down to MOCA, Jacksonville’s Museum of Contemporary Art, to catch the new exhibit “The Art of Seating”.  I have been waiting a while for this exhibit to open since woodturning is often critical to chair making. Because of the wear and tear, chairs are one piece of furniture that is difficult to make well. I have made a few chairs, some with turned components and some without, so I wanted to see some examples of the art.

© Ed Malesky 2011 - Contemporary Chair Designs

The exhibit consists of 44 chairs constructed between the 1800’s and the late 20th Century. The variety is immense, especially the newer examples. There are a few pictures on the MOCA site and there is a good News4Jax video showing off some pieces in the collection.

I spent a lot of time looking at the turnings on these pieces. Lathe turned wood is integral with many chair designs, particularly the early ones. The first one I inspected was the traditional Shaker rocker. Nearly all the components are turned, but they are without any ornamentation.

© Ed Malesky 2011 – Shaker Rocker

However, some of the chairs had very ornate and turnings that incorporated carving, such as  this one.

© Ed Malesky 2011 - Turned and Carved Legs

There was one chair that really blew me away. It was not that the turning was so complex, although a main feature, it was that this contemporary chair was created in the 1860’s. The style and the use of wool braid covered wire, used for the woven seat was way ahead of it’s time.

© Ed Malesky 2011 - Ahead of It's Time

There was also one where all the turnings were done to emulate bamboo.

© Ed Malesky 2011 - Faux Bamboo

Of course, not everything was based on turned components. There were examples of Stickley’s Arts & Crafts style, famous designs from the 60’s and 70’s made of plexiglass and other modern materials, like aluminum and stainless steel. There were even ones made of plywood and corrugated board.

It was an interesting exhibit and it’s worth the trip.

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