Hugh McKay – Tripot #5


Artist Name:  Hugh McKay
Title:  Tripot #5
Details:  Maple burl

Why It’s Notable:

When I first saw this photo, I thought, “Those are three nicely-proportioned vessels made of nicely-figured wood.” And then I looked again. What I failed to realize at first was that the three hollow vessels were actually made from a single piece of burl, and still connected!

This is a level of multi-axis lathe work that I have never encountered or imagined before, and it has reignited my interest in turning.

Ryousuke Ohtake – Spiny Lobster


Artist Name:  Ohtake Ryousuke
Title:  Spiny Lobster
Details:  circa 2014 – 31cm – Boxwood, “beard of whale”

Why It’s Notable:

The form of the spiny lobster was impeccably replicated in boxwood.



But the realistic appearance wasn’t enough to get recognized as a Notable Inspiration. This was: the joints were carved so they move just like a real lobster would.

This amazing video (duration – 3:04) shows how the lobster moves. Note how the artist holds the part he is working on at the 0:12 mark – so simple!

I think that the ball and sockets are snapped into place.


My PechaKucha Night Presentation

Februrary 14, 2013, I presented at Coquitlam’s PechaKucha Night, held at the Evergreen Cultural Centre. The video was recorded and edited by Geoff Scott of Tri-Cities Community TV.

These were the slides I used to guide my presentation.

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If you would like to support Tri-Cities Community TV and other local programming, you can leave a response to the following question on the Canadian Radio-television and Television Commission website.

What programs do you consider to be local television programming—programs about your city, your province, other? How important is local news to you? Why? How important is community access programming and “community TV” to you? Why?


Interior Design Show West 2013

On Saturday, I attended the Interior Design Show West, held at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Interior Design Show West Sign

Future Masters

Although I enjoyed the whole show, Future Masters, which showcases the work of design students and recent graduates, was the highlight for me.  Although this can be partially attributed to the fact that I was already familiar with the work of many of the other vendors (woodworkers especially), you’ll soon see why that isn’t the only reason I spent so much time in their booth.

The first piece that caught my attention was Wicker Coffee Table by Arthur Hobden.  This image was from his website; the prototype he brought to the show utilized birch for the table top.

Arthur Hobden - Wicker Coffee Table

Wicker Coffee Table (in mahogany) by Arthur Hobden

The table is comprised of a large bent lamination supported by a cantilevered frame made of flat steel, hidden behind a series of dowels.  I really liked the effect provided by the dowels.  However, I did not care for the open triangle which Arthur included for stability.  He and I discussed the design and possible ways to eliminate the triangle.

I took this picture of his birch prototype which showed the dowels a little better.

Arthur Hobden - Wicker Coffee Table Low

Wicker Coffee Table (in birch) by Arthur Hobden

The prismatic interior of the night club designed by Avery Titchkosky captured my attention first, but what I found really fascinating was the Scissor Stair.  It’s a very interesting form that fits two staircases into the space of one the same way as a double helix.

It took me a while to realize why the form was so interesting – one staircase, instead of running parallel to the walls, is angled at an approximately 20-degree angle.  The staircase was showed off nicely in the two-sided glass wall overlooking Vancouver’s Granville Street in his Friday Night on Granville Street rendering.

Avery Titchkosky - Scissor Stair

Scissor Stair by Avery Titchkosky

Industrial designers, Charlotte Kennedy and Xiaolu Wu, worked together to design The Three Stool.  Their goal was “to use the least amount of materials while maintaining maximum strength.”

Made predominantly from western maple, steel was also used to reinforce the stretcher.  Despite a noticeable amount of flex in the design, I felt secure sitting on the stool.

Charlotte Kennedy - The Three Stool

The Three Stool by Charlotte Kennedy and Xiaolu Wu

The team of Jason R. Miller, Kirk Loveland and Yoyo Wu also took on the challenge of creating a lightweight stool from maple.  They came up with design, which reminded me of my V-Table.  I liked the clean lines of their stool, though I wasn’t too keen on the fibre rush seat.  They also had on display a previous prototype which featured a cast aluminum seat (you can see many more of their stool ideas on Jason R. Miller’s website).

Jason Roy Miller - Isosceles

Isosceles by Jason R. Miller, Kirk Loveland and Yoyo Wo

And that is what caught my attention at the first booth I saw at the show.  According to Arthur Hobden, Future Masters was given the booth right at the entry because they put on a good show.  I had no doubt.

Around the Interior Design Show West

I always enjoy looking at all the shapes and combinations of lines in jewelry.  I liked the incorporation of a level vial in the Balance series from EvenDesign.  I suggested that they make a hair band to show whether or not someone is level-headed.

Even Design - Balance

Even Design – Balance

I also snapped these pictures of some interesting shapes in wall tiles.  I think that this one would look sharp carved into a wood panel.

Suclpted Panel The shape of these tiles made me thing about making a stool seat.

Curved Panels

Fun highlights of the show included a game of table tennis being played on a dining table at the BoConcept booth and the latest work from Judson Beaumont of Straight Line Designs, Inc.  (PS:  Next month, Judson and I are leading a seminar at Lee Valley Tools, Coquitlam on developing ideas into finished products.)


Quality is Contagious: John Economaki and Bridge City Tool Works

All photos in this post are courtesy of Neil Clemmons.

Last week, I took a 9 hour train ride south to Portland, Oregon for the opening of Quality is Contagious: John Economaki and Bridge City Tool Works, an exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Craft.  An estimated 300 people were in attendance that night.

John Economaki, former furniture maker and President and Founder of Bridge City Tool Works

John Economaki, former furniture maker and President and Founder of Bridge City Tool Works

The exhibit featured select pieces that John created during his notable, if abbreviated, career as a furniture maker.

Waterfall Desk

Waterfall Desk by John Economaki.  Circa 1981

Throughout the exhibit were also a selection of quotes which also appear in the book, Quality Is Contagious: John Economaki & Bridge City Tool Works, 36 Years Through the Lens of Joe Felzman, that accompanies the exhibit.

Brenner Clock

Brenner Clock by John Economaki. Circa 1978

Requiring slightly more floor space were the tools that John created under the name of Bridge City Tool Works.

Layout Tools

Some of the many tools produced by Bridge City Tool Works

Also on display were a few pieces that John created with the Bridge City Tool Works products.  This chess set was impressive from both a technical and design perspective.  That, of course, was no surprise to anyone familiar with his work.

Fog of War

Fog of War by John Economaki. Circa 2013

The next day, I attended an open house at the Bridge City Tool Works Showroom and Skunk Lab (their prototyping and assembly workspace).

Skunk Lab

John Economaki talked about the Jointmaker Pro. Jack, the fellow in the white shirt, travelled from China to attend.

After the open house, we were invited to John’s house for a Book Party.  I collected signatures from John, Joe Felzman and the other contributors present.  I also had the idea to collect signatures from everyone else at the party on the protective cardboard case for the book, which turned out to be a great way to meet new people.

Book Signing Photo

Customers, friends, family, and contributors to the book enjoyed a beautiful evening in John’s backyard

On the third day, Bridge City Tool Works organized a couple of buses to take us on a tour to three wineries.

Harry, of

Harry, of Chehalem Wines, talked to us about his wines in the shade of a large canopy

My trip to Portland was as memorable as any I have taken.  The museum exhibition was inspiring and humbling, and the open house gave me further insight into the Bridge City Tool Works world.  The party at John’s house and wine tour gave me an opportunity to meet and talk to other customers, as well as his friends and family.

I would strongly recommend viewing the exhibition.  It is on display at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, Oregon until February 8, 2014 and it is my understanding that it will then travel the country.  I would also recommend getting yourself a copy of the accompanying book.  It is an amazing book, put together in a very similar fashion to how I imagine I would do it – lots of pictures, bits of trivia, interesting stories, and quotes.


Hilden & Diaz – Forms in Nature

Hilden & Diaz - Forms in Nature

Title:  Forms in Nature
Artist Name:
  Hilden & Diaz
Material:  Polymer
Dimensions:  60cm x 60cm x 60cm
Year:  2012

Why It’s Notable:

Light can be functional, decorative, or both.  The light from Forms in Nature is both.

As furniture designers, we usually think about the form of our furniture and how light will fall upon it.  Because light is usually not integral to woodwork, we have little control over how the two will interact.

Hilden & Diaz have taken light and made it an integral part of the design.  The light is manipulated to cast shadows created by the frame of the chandelier.

As I continue to design, I am realizing that I want to incorporate materials other than wood (including light) in my work.  In Deconstructed, I used a urethane resin for the casting and I incorporated metal into the base of Maple Slab Table.  I want to incorporate light into a future piece, probably in a decorative manner.

Maya Selway – Kishu Vase

Artist Name:  Maya Selway
Title:  Kishu Vase
Details:  circa 2012 – Oxidized copper

Why It’s Notable:  We get so accustomed to thinking of things as the way we know them (vases hold liquid).  When we challenge the way we think about things, it opens up new possibilities.  Maya Selway has not only challenged the definition of a vase, but also what a finished piece should look like.  In this case, the end product looks like nothing more than an incomplete conceptual sketch.

This is the third slide from my PechaKucha presentation.

Cribbage Board

Cribbage Board

Hardware Inspires Me

Experienced woodworkers know that one of the keys to a successful project is to have the hardware that will be used on-hand before the planning stage is complete and building begins. While having a thorough (and accurate) understanding of the hardware is one reason to explore what is available, I also study hardware for inspiration.  The wide variety of hardware available today exhibits so many textures, lines and shapes.  Here are some of the pieces of hardware from the Lee Valley Tools Ltd. catalog that inspire me.

Sometimes I think about what the piece of furniture I might build would look like to go with a particular piece of hardware.

Cast Steel Hands from Lee Valley Tools Ltd.

Other times, I visualize a certain element of the hardware incorporated into a design.

Hollywood open handle from Lee Valley Tools Ltd.

Or I may imagine the pull or knob scaled up as a piece of furniture.

Playful Nature handle

The Eastside Culture Crawl is an annual event where artists of various mediums open their studios to the public.  This pair of antique nickel pulls with a decidedly organic design are from exhibitor Big Bang Boom.  Both are the same size and shape, but not quite identical.

These pulls are the type of hardware around which I could design something.  This page of my sketchbook shows some of the possible orientations for the pulls.

A page from my sketchbook

While sketching I focus on drawing as many possibilities as I can, regardless of whether I think they are good ideas or not.  I feel that the two pulls should be located close together to visually tie them together.  That suggests they would be used as door pulls rather than drawer pulls which are typically mounted in the middle of the drawer to prevent binding when opening.

Or is there a way to have them as drawer pulls close together and not have the drawer bind?

Wharton Escherick – Spiral Library Ladder

Artist Name:  Wharton Escherick
Title:  Spiral Library Ladder
Details:  The first was made in 1966 out of walnut.  Several more were made in walnut and cherry, left- and right-handed.

Why It’s Notable:

Jonathan Fairbanks, an authority of American furniture design described it as “one of the great masterpieces of American furniture, perhaps the most wonderful work ever produced in American furniture.  It is pure sculpture, yet at the same time it is beautiful furniture”.

I love this piece because its form appears so simple, yet complex at the same time.  The success of the design relies on curves, joinery, sculpture, and careful proportions.  It appears sturdy while lightweight at the same time.

Yoshio Mochizuki – BL-B493

Bunacolamp by Yoshio Mochizuki

Artist Name:  Yoshio Mochizuki of Bunaco
Title:  BL-B493 (Bunaco Bracket Lamp)
Details:  Beech, ∅300mm  x 125mm

Why It’s Notable:

The form is very interesting, but what is even more fascinating is the process used to make the lamp.  Watch this video (3:02) to see the how their vessels (a speaker housing in this case) are shaped.  The takeaway: there is always room for innovation.