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"Why Chairs?"
By DB, October 2006

I've been obsessed with chairs for a long long time. The cover of the mid-80s Talking Heads LP featured 4 photos of a drunken chair, showing off. A few years ago I began sketching them in books I carried with me. Maybe they are portraits, maybe self-portraits, maybe portraits of my interior state. Maybe they are also possible practical furniture design. Maybe all of the above at once.

After I'd amassed quite a number of sketches a Japanese furniture producer suggested I realize some for the Milan design fair. I thought this was a wonderful idea — in that context they would mean something altogether different. Too different, it seems — it never happened. But I did make some of the chairs, and some of them are indeed practical.

What makes these different from most contemporary furniture is not the design — furniture designers can be just as fanciful — it is the absence of the "problem solving for the client" approach. Usually in commercial design one is given a budget and a material, price constraints and turnaround times. While I had financial constraints, the material constraints were absent — I worked with whatever material seemed right to realize the drawing, which would not be practical if one were making a commercial run of even the wildest furniture.

I can usually imagine a drawing as a 3D item in my head. The painstaking and time-consuming (and expensive) realization is fun (sometimes) but also weirdly anticlimactic, at least for me. There is indeed a thrill when the tactile thing actually matches the sketchy imagined thing. It's a bit like the Hitchcock quote, that he's made the movie already in his head so although a lot of creativity goes into the making, most of the creative heavy lifting has already been done.

Why chairs? Well, they have arms and legs and vaguely human scale — and shape. They're people — they hold you, support you, elevate you or humble you. They're funny or elegant, funky or gorgeous, social or aloof. They're characters with lives and histories...aren't they?