RISD's Furniture Exhibit Checks the Limitations of Soft Materials


Student work is always something we anticipate during New York Design Week for its unapologetic desire to explore the depths of product and conceptual possibility in design. One excellent example of the appealing investigations coming out of academic programs will quickly be on display screen at ICFF, Rhode Island School of Design's exhibition of student work produced for their Narrative of Making furniture course.


Run by RISD furniture design professor Lothar Windels, this course was a guinea pig of sorts to test the chances for cross-disciplinary operate in an academic setting. Putting together students from the furniture design and textile programs, the course aimed to see how concepts might be pressed even more when students with various proficiency worked together to produce something. Students were partnered and asked to review how soft products are utilized in furniture design instead of conventionally upholstering difficult structures with fabrics, the course challenged students to rather investigate and utilize inherent qualities of these soft materials through making use of weaving, knitting, knotting or crocheting.


The class, consisting roughly of six furniture design students and six fabric students, allowed participants from various disciplines to learn from one another on an intimate level. Participating Furniture Design MFA student Mayela Mujica kept in mind when working with her fabric partner Michelle Dunbar that "being a bit naive of the other's particular field truly stretched the limitations of exactly what we each thought was possible."


When it pertained to producing their furniture pieces, students were encouraged to study the varied possibilities of various products, which would frequently lead to fascinating discoveries within each group. Furniture Design MFA Maria Camarena Bernard stated when producing her crocheted yarn chair that she discovered several unexpected product discoveries:


"We started crocheting rope and thick products thinking that this would help to offer some structure to the bodies we were creating. Rather we found that this type of material ended up being very heavy. Instead of forming a structure, we wound up with a heavy mass of knotted rope wanting to spread on the ground. So we attempted once again, utilizing soft yarn that would permit us to play more with the types we wanted to produce. Utilizing acrylic and wool yarn, we were able to play with a larger range of colors."


Camarena also mentions that the collaborative nature of the job triggered her to step outside of her regular patterns of thinking, stating that "as a furniture designer my very first impulse was to create a frame or structure to be covered with the fabric we would produce. However my collaborator, Aakanksha from the textiles department, had an interest in solely utilizing textile as structure and body. I enjoyed the difficulty."


Professor Windels feels that the ultimate takeaways from a course like this remains in one part about the technical knowledge students acquire when tackling their individual task obstacles, however it is perhaps more significantly about exactly what each student gains from dealing with somebody having a different skillset. "It's almost like working in the real world that you need to work with an engineer, you work with a marketing individual," states Windels, "so it just forced them to also see a different perspective and it really exercised well."


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