ABOVE: Shaker Furniture mounted on Pegs
Do your work as if you had a thousand years to live and as if you were to die tomorrow.
- Mother Anne Lee, founder of the Shaker religious movement
This is the motto that the Shakers lived by as they made their furniture. This is also the work standard that most studio furniture makers live by, especially those furniture makers whose sole income is through their furniture.
The Shakers began the tradition of wall mounted furniture by placing pegs along the walls of their rooms in order to hang chairs and other furniture pieces when they are not in use. The shakers lived a very simple life, and were foremost experts in eliminating clutter. Their beds contained rollers so that each day the bed could easily be moved so that the dust and debris could be easily swept up with a broom. Statistically this focus on hygiene and cleanliness paid off as Shakers had a longer life expectancy than other peoples living in nearby towns.
Several modern furniture makers have continued this tradition of wall mounted or wall hanging furniture, both as a way to eliminate clutter and also as a decorative element, blurring the line between functional craft and fine art.
Tom Loeser in 1982 designed “Folding Chair”. Using simple yet unique shapes, Loeser has created a piece of furniture which transforms from a unique abstract wall hanging shape to a functional chair that is of equal esthetic curiosity. The chair has several versions, all of which have the same shape and moving parts, but use different materials and decorative motifs and paints.
ABOVE: Tom Loeser's "Folding Chair" unfolded
BELOW: Tom Loeser's "Folding Chair" folded
In 2000, Michael Deforest created “Michael’s Table, Michael’s Chair”. The piece is made with plywood, Incised line carving, and milk paint. The piece really bridges the gap between craft and fine art. Just for clarification I define craft as that which is functional and fine art as that which is non-functional. The classification of a work as “fine art” is only credited by the elite establishment of the fine art community, not by the craft community. Deforest’s furniture could at first be mistaken as a non-functional wall mounted piece, however only the interaction of the piece will one discover the table and chair can be extracted from the painting and unfold into a functional chair and table.
ABOVE: "Michael's Table and Michael's Chair" wall mounted
BELOW: "Michael's Table and Michael's Chair" set up as functional furniture
Recently Christy Oates showcased her masters thesis at the prestigious San Diego State program under Wendy Maruyama. Her furniture collection consisted of wall mounted furniture pieces which unfold into functional furniture. Like Deforest, each of Oates’ wall mounted pieces appear to be two dimensional non-functional pieces portraying a piece of furniture. But with interaction, one discovers the functionality and playfulness in her pieces. Oates pushes modern studio furniture movement forward with her innovative use of laser cutting plywood and use of hidden bungee cords in lieu of traditional hinges. One of her latest pieces used laser cutting as a means to expedite the time consuming process of marquetry using walnut and maple veneer on 1/2” Baltic Birch plywood.
ABOVE: Christy Oates' marquetry walnut and maple veneer chair
BELOW: Video of Christy Oates Thesis Project