Art and design projects. With stories about the people, places and experiences that have shaped my

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Daniella On Design Post / Colored Chair

'Daniella On Design' very kindly put this photo and text on her chic contemporary design blog. Please click on the words 'Colored Chair by John Scofield' below to go to her site.

"Colored Chair" by John Scofield
Colored Chair: Shown in Robert Motherwell's library, Greenwich, CT in the 1970s. Matisse collage on lower right was one of his 'testing' art works. Chair is made of carved cherry and poplar wood, flocking, leather, varnish.

08/29/2013 'Daniella on Design' Post:

The School for American Craftsmen at the Rochester Institute of Technology has trained some of the best American artists and craftsmen. One of them the amazingly talented John Scofield, created this sculptural chair, the “Colored Chair” while a student in 1971. Robert Motherwell bought it three years later and kept the chair in his library for the next 17 years - until he died. In 1990 the Franklin Parrasch Gallery sold it to legendary design collectors and patrons Sydney and Frances Lewis, who gifted much of their extraordinary collection of American Arts and Crafts and French Art Deco to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Architectural Design, Remodeling and Construction Supervision: A Porch Addition

My wife, Bartley Johnstone, and I collaborate both in life and in work. Trained at Parsons as a fashion designer, Bartley is also a talented and successful interior designer. Her fashion store in Kent, CT is called B. Johnstone & Co. I have designed, built, remodeled and supervised many residential and commercial projects. My company is called John Scofield Designs, LLC. Here are 'before' and 'after' views of a remodeled porch addition that we created together for a house in Connecticut:

The 'before' condition of the porch is shown above. It is a small room with a small porch that was added on later. They have two different roofs that do not meet. There are no screens. The foundation is bare concrete. The door on the far right was a sealed-off 'door to nowhere' from the living room.

The completed porch is much enlarged as shown in the 'after' photo above. It wraps around the formal entry room and is fully screened. New double French doors on both sides allow people to move in and out easily during parties. The new standing-seam copper roof is unified and tight. New stone foundation piers match the original stone on the house.

It was Bartley's idea to add the new 'eyebrow' window over the screen door.

Here's how it looks from the inside. The new eyebrow window and barrel-vaulted ceiling brighten the space and make the chandelier sparkle! They also add a more formal quality to a previously moribund room. The entry door and French doors are new. To keep expenses down, we rehabbed the two original flanking windows. Bartley found the chandelier in pieces up in the attic. She had it cleaned and rewired. Note the perimeter down-lighting and speakers.

This framing detail shows you how the barrel-vaulted ceiling was made. The workman is cutting the sprayed-in foam, high-R insulation to conform to the curve. Next, thin panels of sheet-rock will be lightly sprayed with water and fastened to the wood strips. That lamination process creates a distortion-free curved surface. Traditional plastering would have been much more expensive but not necessarily of better quality.

Here are more views of the completed addition:

7 Sept. 2013 post script:

Designer Melissa Brunet, in Paris, just requested the following: "I love love love to read about how people solve design problems. And I know I'm not alone on this so please continue!" 

OK Melissa, here goes: The design for the addition was tricky because the new roof peak could not go higher than a 2nd floor window sill. Squeezing the vaulted ceiling, framing widths, plate height etc. into the available space - leaving room for roof pitch - took a little Texas chainsaw massacre work...! The authentic Greek columns are fibreglass from Brosco. Cutting each one burns through a new skil saw blade per column. It's still worth it. They don't rot. The square columns are rot resistant wood that we fabricated on site. The mahogany deck has a decent pitch; sheds water. Had to 'ice and water shield' the new roof to the house wall to prevent future leaks. That sprayed-in foam solved another problem. Code makes you vent the entire roof; soffit and ridge - unless you fill all under-roof voids with approved foam! Done. Would you like my dissertation on nails too...?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Maquettes for Furniture Designs

A model (maquette) for a dining table.
Making small-scale models of objects is a good way to explore scale and form. Revisions to a full-scale design can take days or weeks and be very costly. It's better to make changes on the maquette that only took a day or two to create. And there is nothing like being able to hold the model in your hand!

Actual size and scale is shown here.
The first photo at the beginning of this story fools us into thinking that we are seeing a real dining table. In fact, this maquette is just 2 7/16 inches (62mm) tall.

Side view.
The wood top is made out of 'bird's-eye' maple. The legs were cut from silver-solder brazing rods. They were given a brushed texture finish and then several coats of spray lacquer.

Leg and 'coved' apron detail.

.This table leg detail photo shows how the 'apron' under the table is curved on all four sides.

 A biomorphic table maquette:
A continuously curved-edge 'biomorphic' shaped table top.
When we see contemporary designers using biomorphic curves, it is fashionable these days to say that the inspiration came surely from the modernist European sculptors Brancusi, Moore or Arp. Personally, I have always preferred British sculptor Barbara Hepworth in this department. She was often more bold with her shapes than the men. And certainly elegant.

Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975) carving a stone sculpture.

L - R: George Beylerian, John Scofield with a painted oak bench Maquette.
Photo: B. Johnstone.
 Here I am, on the right, presenting a maquette for a bench to design-world icon George Beylerian in 2013. He is probably the foremost collector of modern miniature furniture designs in the USA. Naturally, I am very honored to be included in his collection. 

Here are some other maquettes I have made over the years:

'Reclining Woman Bench' maquette.
The full scale 'Reclining Woman Bench,' in carved cherry.

Bench with multicolored back and metal legs.

Two maquettes for the 'Equestrian Bench.'

The full scale 'Equestrian Bench' in carved and painted mahogany.

Maquette for 'Night Sky Table in painted pear wood.

The full-scale 'Night Sky Table' in painted cherry and forged iron.

Top view of full-scale 'Night Sky Table' depicting the Milky Way with thousands of painted white dots.

The furniture and sculpture maquette display at my Port Chester, NY studio in the 1980s
Additional pieces in this photo along the bottom:
On lower left a black Steinway piano chair. My Folding Music Stand with a copy of Threads magazine on it. The cover shot is Martha Yazzie weaving a Navajo Burntwater-style rug near the Canyon de Chelly, AZ. A geometric steel and granite table with flowers. A sculpture titled 'The Savage and the Tender,' after the Robert Burns poem 'Song Composed in August.' A settee designed by Jack Lenor Larsen. Jack was a juror in the first exhibition of my work - The Brockton, MA Art Center show 'Things,' 1972.

Fir wood top, painted legs. Photographed on a galvanized table surface.

Side view shows tapered and coved apron dining table; Hepworth inspired table.

Gloss sprayed lacquer is rubbed with a fine abrasive for a less reflective satin finish.
Note in the photo above that each of the eight legs is a different color. Also, the color palette for each table has a different emotional tenor. The Navajo weavers would say that the one on the left is 'brightened,' while the little table on the right is 'saddened.'

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Coat Rack Inspired by 'Thalassia' Sea Grass

"There is a catboat from the Adams and two Indian cayucas
which carry thalassia grass used as fodder for the turtles."

     - from Far Tortuga by Peter Matthiessen

The completed 'Thalassia' coat rack with base.

This is a painted sketch (cartoon) for a coat rack. It's design is based on a type of sea grass called 'thalassia.' That means 'the sea' in Greek. Big waving blades of grass stand up under the water. They undulate to and fro with the current. I got the idea for this piece while reading a novel titled Far Tortuga, an under-sung 1975 work of genius by writer Peter Matthiessen. The bottom lines forming a rectangular base represent a metal pan that will catch water from dripping coats. It is also a place to put wet boots.

I like to make a number of different designs; try it out on paper first. These cartoons are acrylic paintings on paper.

 Once the drawing has been selected, the individual parts of the design must be segregated on paper. Each part has to be re-scaled individually and given a letter or number for identification.

Here is the first mock-up in progress. It is made out of douglas fir and CDX plywood. The curved elements are cut out on the band saw. It's funny how the original cartoon can be scaled-up with great precision, but be all wrong! Proportion can only be judged as it relates to human scale; not a little sketch - and certainly not on an electronic screen! Each full-scale element needed some sort of minor adjustment. For example, the big green curve on the cartoon was just too thick when enlarged to full scale. Note that it has been slimmed-down above.

 The mock-up, upper left in photo, is now primed white in advance of 'colorization.' On the right are the big oak planks that will become legs for the final piece. All of these machines will make the planks straight and parallel.

Here are two oak legs being glued together with clamps. The two parts in front with pink bands are plywood templates traced from the oak legs. Templates will be useful if I ever decide to make another coat rack of this design. The areas where the leg parts overlap are painted pink. This color locates the parts for future assembly. Other templates express their overlaps in different colors; blue, green etc. So you know that it is correctly assembled when green-to-green, red-to-red etc. Believe it or not, there are a total of fifteen (15) separate pieces of wood that comprise this coat rack, not including the base.

One of the more interesting shapes is the eight inch wide 'spacer' between the front and rear sets of legs. Here it is shown having just been cut out of a two inch thick block of poplar. This spacer follows the "S" curve of the second leg in from the front.

There is the completed Douglas fir mock-up on the left. It has been painted in a manner that is faithful to the cartoon. But an extra leg (blade of 'grass') has been added in the rear. The white primed version on the right is made out of oak. The curves on this one have become more refined and somewhat 'slenderized.' Each has a total of ten (10) coat hooks. Three on the back are not shown in these photos.

Here it is being picked up by Arnoff / North American movers. This prototype has been professionally sprayed with three coats of nitro-cellulose lacquer at Greg St. John's shop in Kent, CT. I love that light ultramarine blue leg, front left. My wife calls it 'periwinkle' blue.
The painted and clear coated 'Thalassia' mock-up has been purchased by Porter Briggs, a collector in Little Rock, AR. Porter is the founder and Chairman of A Briggs Passport & Visa Expeditors: The Briggs Washington, DC office obtained my visa to Southern China in 2010. Otherwise I would have had to wait in line for hours in NYC - with no guarantee of getting the visa!

This is how the design would look with single, solid (monochrome) colors:

This is the oak version primed for painting. The welded steel pan below was fabricated by Peter Kirkiles, also of Kent. The metal pan and wood base will be painted a cream color to match the client's bamboo flooring. Note that the wood 'spacer' has a slight curve on the top edge. This is to automatically center silk scarves that are draped over the spacer. The bottom of the spacer has a corresponding lower curve. That is where you place your hand to move the coat rack around the room. It is the center of gravity for the whole piece.

This 'Thalassia' story will be re-posted with new photos when the colors are completed. They will show the oak coat rack with three different transparent glazes; diarylide yellow, cobalt turquois and cobalt blue. It is a lovely way to work. You slow down the drying to blend the colors. It's not a make-it-or-break-it process. If you don't like the result you can wipe it all off and start again. My glazes are made from Golden acrylic paints.

See new photos of Thalassia with the final glazes applied below.

A Glaswegian church decorator, John Canning, taught me how to do these glazes. He would make his own paints from pigments ground in oil. No Japan driers. Canning and his crew restored the ceiling at Grand Central Station some years ago; Battell Chapel stencils at Yale too. He and I painted the Equestrian Bench together; shown above on the banner for this blog.

 I am trying to approximate the feeling of the sea as described in Matthiessen's Far Tortuga. The native fishermen are not concerned with useless abstract thoughts like reconciliation between man and nature. There is no literary nothing. They fish. The sea is beautiful. The sea is dangerous. They are only reconciled to their fates.

It may be impossible to use this subject as a motif for a coat rack. But it's worth a try. As Plato said, "The craftsman, looking toward the true form, so fashions."




And here are two small tables below that I recently made. The polychrome one (on right) is in the spirit of the Thalassia coat rack. The natural wood table (left) is based on the early American 'birdcage' device; four columns as the transition from post to table top. We sometimes see this on early 'pie crust' tables that tilt up on a birdcage wood hinge. It was a great design scheme then - and still is! This one is fixed; does not tilt.

The top of the table on the right is made from the Thalassia glaze color test board shown below: