I am meeting with Mark tomorrow to go over my preliminary drawings before I start making sketch models and tweaking things until they look right. This weekend was the first time I really sat down and tried to figure out how this thing will actually be put together and, frankly, it was difficult. I am left feeling like a jack of all trades and a master of none. There are many things I do well, and this is just not something I’m really really good at yet. My decisions about angles felt arbitrary. I changed things when they felt like they looked weird, which is good, but I feel like I should have more concrete data about the angles of a rocker. The problem, though, is that if one thing is different on a chair (for instance the angle of the backrest, whether or not the seat is upholstered) it completely changes the way every other part of the chair feels to sit in. So, while I’ve done a fair amount of research on the depth of seats, the height from the floor, etc., the angles feel like something that will just have to be messed with in a full-scale mock-up, kind of like Gary Weeks’ fitting booth. And the arc of the rocker?! Lord help me. I am nervously anticipating questions from Mark about the specificity of the joinery, whether or not the piece is about thinness or bulk, if transitions will be blunt and angular or smooth and rounded, etc. Dave kindly pointed out that this is why I’m meeting with Mark. These questions are how I get somewhere.
I draw by hand for a few reasons. First of all, I am not great at using CAD software and it makes me want to tear my hair out. While it is supposed to make things easier and faster, it takes me MUCH longer to perform simple operations and I wind up spending the entire time trying to figure out how to get the program to do what I want and not concentrating on the actual design. That said, sometimes I can’t make my hand do exactly what I want, but that’s a whole other story. The other main reason I draw by hand is because of the essay by architect’s Tod Williams and Billie Tsien called “Slowness.” In it they quote Milan Kundera, who says: “…the degree of slowness is directly proportional to the intensity of memory; the degree of speed is directly proportional to the intensity of forgetting.” They follow by explaining their philosophy:
As our hands move we have the time to think and to observe our actions….When we make changes they occur with effort and a fair amount of tedious scrubbing with erasers, erasing shields, and spit. We have to sort back through previous drawings and bring them to agreement. So decisions are made slowly, after thoughtful investigation, because they are a commitment that has consequence….The grime that builds up from being worked over is poignant and satisfying. We see the history of the presence of our hand.
Drawing by hand allows one the time to make decisions more carefully and consider the consequences of one’s actions. When a mistake is made, or a decisions changes, the marks always remain to a degree, evidence of the process it took to arrive at its final state and the steps that came before. And particularly with furniture–objects that so commonly stir deep wells of memory, objects that wear slowly, speaking to the hands that have passed over them, the years of use, and passage of time–it is fitting to pay homage to this aspect of its later life even as the ideas of what it will be are still nascent.