Wading through the sea of influences that have an impact on my thinking and work can be both daunting and inspiring. Whenever I can't seem to drag myself out to the shop (think freezing cold dark mornings or perfect summer afternoons) I crack a book or two and look and the work of others, and I am soon pulled pack into needing to make something.
Sometimes, inspiration can come from unexpected places. Below is a picture of the last piece made my Henri Matisse. At the time that it was made, he was confined to his bed, where he cut out shapes in colored paper and had an assistant pin them to the wall to make his compositions. The stained glass window is in the Rockefeller chapel of the Union Church of Pocantico Hills. I saw this window when I was 15 years old, and I have been thinking a lot about it lately.
So what is so special about this window?
The tradition of the rose window is one of opulence and symmetry. The greats of Europe are intricate and ornate as they hold center stage in the cathedral, meant to inspire awe and hold their own in the greatest displays of architecture of their time. Matisses window plays a different kind of role. At first, when looking at it, it is a simpler version of the rose window. But on closer inspection, one sees that within the rigid framework, that no two pieces are alike. Symmetry and similarity give way to freedom, lightness and life. It may sound simple, but I spend a lot of time trying to deal with its ramifications.
I have been designing new work lately with a different set of priorities. This year, I have been trying new technologies and designs in an attempt to add my bit to the tradition of chairmaking. I have had some success at it, but the final element has been missing, fun. Not to say that I don't enjoy the work, but I have known all along that once I'd resolved some of my initial goals, that the process would have to be reapproached with the aim of bringing more joy to the making, as well as to the chairs.
I think that every craftsman is in this postion at one time or another, sure the work is beautiful, but what a pain! So with simplicity in mind, I've been reviewing my goals, and the works of many masters. I have been looking carefully at chairs of all sorts, trying to distill the elements that I admire and the ways that the process and forms coalesce. In some instances, such as Sam Maloof, I find the process torturous (way to much abrasives!) but am awed by the fluid forms and overall gesture.
So off I go to the shop, with many voices echoing in my head, until I start to work, and they quiet down, so that I can get some work done.
I'll be posting photos of the new work soon.