I found another good quote from the back issues of Woodwork. This one is from the article titled Judy Ditmer: The Power of Acceptance by Kerry Pierce in issue #45, from June 1997. It resonates with me, as this way of working is not unfamiliar to me.
“‘Stephen Jay Gould, the archaeologist and teacher… discussed a popular misconception about the work of archaeology and physical anthropology: the idea that you can take one bone and from that you can postulate the whole creature… an interesting idea with application in my work. Sometimes, I’ll start with the foot of the bowl. Maybe I’ll start with a curved foot, and it’s like that mythical one bone from which the archaeologist postulates everything. Once you’ve turned that foot, the entire bowl has been decided.’” – Judy Ditmer
Find this quote among others on my page titled Quotes from Woodwork.
An example of this is in my current project: a stool. I started by dressing a round 14” x 2” seat blank and 1-3/8” square legs.
None of these materials were particularly inspiring. Seeking a design element, I decided to rout channels through the legs. I used a 1/4” router bit, and made slots of lengths based on the Fibbonacci sequence. To accentuate the slots and soften their appearance, I rounded over their edges.
The resulting form clashed with the massive seat that I had roughed out, and had me rethinking the seat design. So, the key design element (the slots with rounded edges) pointed the way for the rest of the stool’s design.