This is part one of our series that takes a peek into the process of the artists, artisans and craftspeople who helped make Mill 180 Park a reality. Click here to read the series.
Please describe what you created for Mill 180 Park.
I worked on designing and fabricating the stools, chairs and tables for Mill 180 Park.
How did you come up with the design?
The design for the furniture was a collaborative process, developed from an effort to create a language of shape and line that would inform all of the various design elements of the park. This included the branding and graphic design, the floor layout and the furniture. In determining what this language would look like, we considered the functions of the park, the people that would be visiting and how we wanted the park to feel. We also considered the fact that we wanted the park to be both unified, as well as delineated into its various components. In the end, we chose the hexagon as the shape that truly reflected the objectives of the park. The hexagon is found in plant chemical diagrams and other biological forms and is also easily broken down into other shapes (including triangles and parallelograms). The hexagon provided the opportunity to play with the angles and bisections in our floor layout and furniture designs. And most importantly, the hexagon is aesthetically pleasing. Finally, we knew that much of the park would be whimsical, and wanted the restaurant area to be sleek and modern, as a contrast to that feel.
What materials did you use and why?
We used both heat treated and clear Ash, as well as mill scale steel. The material choices were both structural and aesthetic. Because it is very strong and structurally sound for joinery, as well as locally sourced, we chose clear ash for the furniture. The heat treated ash was used on the table tops, because it provided a nice contrast and reflected the heat treated ash floor in the bar area. We chose to combine wood with steel to echo the many other steel elements in the park. We also felt that these materials added an industrial element to the design, reflecting the home of the park, which is a historic mill building. The combination of materials makes the furniture extremely durable, while still maintaining a simple and sleek style.
Please describe the creation process.
Before we began making prototypes, I began by sketching a number of ideas on paper. With the help of more computer literate colleagues, we transferred my drawings into a program called Rhino, where we were able to work out and tweak many of the technical elements of the design. At this point, I created a few scaled models which allowed for more design adjustments before going into production.
I am not a metal worker, so I cannot speak to the process used to create the metal elements of the furniture. As for the wood elements, we designed a number of jigs that would allow us to shape our pieces in a uniform way. The back rests were created using a jig that moved the wood along a curved track, on a very large band saw. The legs were created using a template and a router that allowed us to replicate the desired shape with great precision. Finally, the diagonals across the back of the chairs were created using angles that we pulled from the Rhino drawings, which allowed us to make accurate compound cuts on the miter saw. Every cut that was made on a machine was then carefully hand planed to be flat, and without machine marks, and every inch of each element was hand sanded with meticulous attention to detail. The chair and stool seats were profiled using a CNC router and then finished by hand.
The tables were created by cutting strips of the heat treated ash, and then gluing them with the use of a large glue up rack, built and designed by the Oxbow Design Build team. Each table top is made up of three components (two groupings of heat treated ash and one board of solid clear ash). First, they were individually flattened, and then edge joined using dominoes. Finally, they were planed and sanded by hand.
What are your hopes for how your creation will be used?
I hope people will enjoy using the furniture in the park, and most importantly, that people find them comfortable and inviting!
How did you learn to create works like this?
I was trained in furniture making and design at a school in Maine called The Center for Furniture Craftsmanship. Subsequently, I worked for two years as a junior furniture conservator at Fine Wood Conservation in the Redhook neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY.
What do you like best about Mill 180 Park?
This project has given each of us at Oxbow Design Build the opportunity to experiment with and create extremely innovative designs. We have been encouraged to use our imaginations and take chances in creating a truly unique space. I think our passion is reflected in the the final product of Mill 180 Park, which is both beautiful and serene, inspiring and educational, playful and purposeful. I look forward to spending a lot of time in the park.