The furniture world is collegiate yet competitive. Designers and makers love to see what is out there; to gain inspiration, to judge and place themselves. Social media brings it all very close. Take this blog, you could be reading it just 15 minutes after the idea takes form. How’s that for connection to someone’s thought process?
We (furniture makers) love it when our furniture is loved. We love it even more when we have a relationship with the lover of our pieces who is willing to commit themselves to a purchase. Yes, it is the attachment of the crafts person and artist to that essential idea, put onto the canvass or formed from the wood; that originality; that which no-one else has done.
These thoughts are at the front of my mind at the Matisse show in Tate Modern. Here was a person, whose very being and definition of self was expressed through colour and form. Disability in later life did not suppress that urge to say something through his hands and mind and he said it in a different way. His contemporary, collaborator and competitor, Picasso, would admire Matisse’s work, and take inspiration. It is just the way the furniture designer and maker works.
images courtesy Centre Pompidou C Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2014
Out of Tate modern into Tate Liverpool and Piet Modrian. Here was a form ready made for Gerrit Rietveld and the De Stijl movement to work with in 3D. No curves, simple shapes, ready made for mass production. There were miniature versions of his original for sale at Tate Liverpool for £160.
Not sure what relationship Reitveld has with the purchaser of this piece but his design is familiar and has its place in design history. Mondrian wanted to find the ‘End of Art’; pictures that had no source form, were entirely abstract with no connections.
The paradox is that this form has become the form we recognise as a source of inspiration. Look at his self portrait – clearly inspired by his later work!. And trees – familiar to furnituremakers.
Thoughts turn to ‘Attentive’. I have been sitting on it at my desk for the past month. Although it has no wheels, no arms, nor any tilt mechanisms, or lift and lower springs, it is my preferred desk chair. I am supported in all those different positions that I find so necessary. Conventional chairs don’t seem to support me like this. I ask myself would Matisse, Mondrian or Picasso see the possibilities of making this something that endures?
If I was to take inspiration from one, it has to be Matisse.
Meanwhile, ‘Attentive’ sits and stores well. Here are 20 chairs and one in constant use.