Furniture obsessive (or nerd) that I am, I found out about Jennifer Anderson's important work by clicking through everything in the gallery at the College of the Redwood's website. I'm really glad I found her work. She has excellent ideas about furniture and executes them impeccably. In a short time, she has assembled a body of work that is as impressive as it is imaginative. Looking over the work on her site, I was struck by how many pieces I've seen featured in design magazines. See her "press" section for some examples.
Here is a piece firmly in the James Krenov tradition -- a lingerie cabinet (in Europa, figured maple, Spanish cedar) that is beautiful inside and out.
I absolutely love this group of chairs (made of walnut, polyethylene, and industrial felt) she has playfully named "Drove":
I almost described her work as 'clean' but thankfully I stopped myself before committing that crime. 'Clean' is one of those cliches in the design world (almost as bad as calling Shaker furniture 'simple') that doesn't capture complexity and has the negative connotation of sterile. Anderson’s work is anything but sterile. I think what I mean to say is that the work is elemental and restrained and at the same time powerful and totally fresh. As you will see in the rest of her work, Anderson is a maker you should pay attention to.
I especially admire her examination of textures and shapes and combinations of wood and fabric. I asked her a couple questions about her vision for furniture making. This is my first foray into doing an interview, so I really appreciate Jennifer's willingness to participate. It's fascinating to get an idea of what went into her decision-making process and instructive to know how the design process is as much about editing as it is about generating ideas.
Furnitude: I love your Echo Chaise and your Conversation chairs. The surfaces are fascinating. For the Echo Chaise, what is the piece made out of?
JA: The Echo Chaise is made from industrial felt, plywood, maple veneer and steel.
Furnitude: How did you arrive at the shape? Did you make mock-ups?
JA: The shape evolved from my desire to create the piece as a multi-functional seating object. I designed it with the idea of using it in four different ways: 1. As a typical chaise with your head on the bolster pillow (not pictured) at the top hump and your feet at the bottom hump. 2. As a tall stool, sitting on the top hump with your feet facing the side. 3. As a short stool, sitting on the lower hump with your feet facing the side. 4. As an inversion chaise with your feet on the top hump and your head on the lower hump.
Instead of making a full-scale mock-up I did full-scale sketches. To figure out the basic curve shape I placed large paper on the ground, laid on top of it on my side in a reclined position, and had someone trace my body. From that rough sketch I refined the shape making sure that I could get the curve out of a sheet of 4' x 8' ply.
Furnitude: For the Conversation chairs, the impression of the human torso is amazing. What are the seats made of? Are the impressions sculpted or are they made from a cast?
JA: The seats of Conversation are made of fiberglass and pig suede.
The method I used for creating the seats is similar to the technique used for making custom seats in racecars. First, I fabricated a small box or compartment that I could sit in. There were two planes in the box. One plane was for the seat and the other plane was for the seat back. I mixed a two-part expandable foam in plastic garbage bags, placed the bags in the container, and positioned myself on them. I sat completely still for about three minutes and waited for the foam to expand harden around me. Once the foam was hard I carefully removed myself from the compartment. I used the hardened foam as a form to fiberglass over. Once the fiberglass parts were cut to size I had a leather worker skin them with the pig suede.
Furnitude: What was your vision for Conversation?
My inspiration for Conversation came from my observation that an empty chair often says more than a chair with somebody in it, and from the idea that an object can capture a moment in time. This piece is not about custom molding chairs to fit a person’s body, nor are they about physical comfort. On the contrary, these chairs are meant to be slightly uncomfortable. My hope is that the user will move around in an attempt to ‘fit’, ultimately finding themselves in a position and posture that is not their own. Hopefully they will begin to think about the conversation in which the two people might have been engaged in, and will begin to think of conversations and memories of their own.
Check out her bio section to learn about her training and the work she's doing now. I will include another of Jennifer's pieces, a rocking chair, in an upcoming post. In the meantime, have a look at an artist who is beyond up and coming but at the beginning of what will no doubt be a stellar career in furniture making.
The website for Jennifer Anderson Studio Furniture is http://www.jenniferandersonstudio.com/.
Photos are by Larry Stanley.