What Defines Form?

There’s no part in [a motorcycle], no shape in [a motorcycle], that is not out of someone’s mind… a person who does machining or foundry work or forge work or welding sees “steel” as having no shape at all. Steel can be any shape you want if you are skilled enough, and any shape but the one you want if you are not.

– Robert M. Pirsig (from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)

One of the questions I am frequently asked is how I come up with original designs. Although I do study existing designs, when I want to create a design that I can call my own I start at the very beginning – with the purpose.

Take, for example, a table. If the purpose of a table is to support items at a convenient height, the requirements are to provide an adequate amount of support for the items, elevated to an appropriate height.

One of the most common forms has four legs, aprons, and a top – as seen here in my Table with a Twist.

Table with a Twist (42"x12.5"x30")

Table with a Twist by Chris Wong

Why are tables built this way? Do tables need to have four legs, four aprons and a table top? Of course not. This combination of parts is simply one solution that meets the requirements of a table.

There are other solutions, and once you open your mind to the idea that you are not limited to the usual, or even existing forms you can start designing any sort of table.

Here are a couple interesting table designs.

Brian VanVreede’s Cantilevered Coffee Table features a daring, curvaceous base.

BCCM Cantilevered Coffee Table

Cantilevered Coffee Table by Brian VanVreede

Sculpted Ash Table, which I built, is comprised of a sculpted table top half-lapped into an upright, which is bolted to an over-sized foot.

Sculpted Ash Table Front

Sculpted Ash Table by Chris Wong

Paul-Marcel St. Onge’s Tim Burton Table… well…

Tim Burton Table by Paul-Marcel St. Onge

Tim Burton Table by Paul-Marcel St. Onge

Find more interesting designs on my Pinterest board.

5 thoughts on “What Defines Form?

  1. CW – Of the tables here, the one that really, really catches my eye is the table with a twist. The design is subtle, and it delights the eye. You are a remarkable craftsman.

    • Brian,

      Excellent question. I listed what I perceive to be the practical requirements of a table. If your requirements of a table are different (for example, as a purely decorative piece), the form may be quite different – even without a top. Can you make a normally-functioning table without a top?

      Chris

I would be delighted if you left a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s