Have a Seat
The Maine College of Art students explored wood, trees and the forest in the 14th Wilsonart Challenges Student Chair Design Competition. The chairs were designed around the concept of standing in the forest and being alone with a tree. The theme of this year’s competition focuses on the importance of Maine’s timber industry and Wilsonart’s commitment to educate design professionals about responsibly sourced wood.
The winning chair – “Tool for Translation” by Joseph Goodwin (above) – was designed around the idea of a chainsaw becoming the chair through flowing curves and geometry.
The following is his description of his chair:
As a cultural icon, the chainsaw is perhaps more fraught with contradictions than any other everyday object. The power tool is representative of competing ideologies, disparate politics and contentious debate. By translating these complexities into a refined, simplistic chair form, Goodwin attempts to draw our attention to the irony of being not one or the other, but both simultaneously. The universal language of geometry can mediate the divide between opposing viewpoints and can be a catalyst for constructive dialog. The chainsaw represents the threshold where a tree’s life ends, and a chair’s life begins.
Holey Blue by Kincaid Pearson
“My chair is an abstract representation of being in the woods during the night and looking up at the sky. I wanted to create a design that is more pattern based and reflects the silhouettes of the tree branches reaching across the night sky. I was looking to give the sitter a sense of being isolated, a feeling that is like being in the woods.”
Oxide by Dan Trottier
“The origin of “Oxide” stemmed from my finding a broken, plastic Adirondack chair in the forest. There was something so cyclical about a chair design that was inspired by mountains, mass produced and domesticated and then returned to nature to be reclaimed and decay. It was, by definition, feral. That word, feral, became integral to Oxide’s form. The idea of designing from a broken state and still honoring the dilapidation with intentionality. The form of the chair is skewed and precarious to convey a sense of unkempt abandon. The chair shades itself with different tones of slate, while one rusty element pierces through, suggesting the imminence of the oxidation process covering the entire mass is yet to come.”
L ‘Dor V ‘Dor (From Generation to Generation) by Naomi Russo
“The concept of this chair relates back to the woods and my family. As a tree falls over in the woods, that tree may not hit the ground but will rather be held up by the other trees surrounding it. The same applies for a line of generations. As one ancestor may pass, the following generations are there to remember them. That ancestor may have passed, but they are not forgotten. The seat that pierces through the center of the piece is an ode to that fallen tree or lost ancestor. They may have fallen, but they have not been forgotten and are still carried on through their legacy. This chair gives the sitter two options for places to sit within the piece. There is also the option to sit alone on the chair, or with someone else, while using the chair as a means to start a conversation.”
Ascend by Jason Haskell
“The concept behind Ascend was to figure out how to incorporate the feeling of physical movement, the uplifting sensation of having a seat higher than normal and also the emotion nature presents when you interact with it. The form of the chair when put together is supposed to represent a tree trunk, along with the different levels of seats to signify different heights of branches, each placed at a certain point that is suitable for any climber. The woodgrain on the outside of the form grabs the attention and sparks the idea that this is a tree-based object, along with the inside woodgrain that reassures that thought. With the red tops being the last element to the piece, this color is for seating arrangement – a small indication of where you can end up.”
Please, Sit by Daniel Iwasko
“This chair was created after an experience in the woods where I found myself sitting at the base of a tree with a guitar. I found that the roots formed a perfect backrest for me as I was sitting at the base of a tree. Sitting there on the ground was very comfortable, and I wanted to recreate that feeling.”
“A year ago in Montana, I was drawing chairs in my basement at night after work and now I am headed to ICFF to show my design,” said Goodwin. “The path between those points is insane and to say that I’m ecstatic would be an understatement. I’m so grateful to Grace and you all for allowing me the freedom to make such an unorthodox piece that will be a portfolio booster as well as a conversation starter for some difficult cultural and environmental issues we face. I hope that moving forward my piece might open the door for designers to think conceptually and metaphorically about the power furniture can have and how material choices can enhance content within not just sculpture but also design.”