Residency Update: Post, a New Bicycle Rack

In every apartment I’ve lived in, my mountain bike / commuter has been stored in the living room. I always wanted a rack to keep my bike from crashing down unexpectedly, and to keep grip and tire scuffs off of the walls. As a furniture maker, I realized my opportunity to create the finest bicycle rack available. I wanted to craft the rack from high quality hardwoods, allowing it to be cherished for generations. It had to be collapsible so it could fit easily in a closet or a trunk, yet assemble with ease. I desired something with a versatile elegance that would look beautiful in any interior, with or without a bike on it. After many prototypes and tests, Post was born.

Post supporting my personal bike!

Post supporting my personal bike!

I have been developing this project since the beginning of my residency at San Diego State University last fall. It was a great challenge distilling and refining this design to an essence. I feel grateful to have had ample time in San Diego to make multiple prototypes before reaching a final design. All of the hard work seems to be finally paying off. For the first time in memorable history I have reached a point where I feel completely satisfied with all elements of a project. I am so excited to share these fresh studio images of Post with you.

For those of you who have been following for a while, you may remember an earlier bicycle rack that I made in 2013. Much has changed over two years...

Although the stand above served its intended function (and looked sweet), it was heavy and cumbersome. The newly designed Post represents my updated design mentality of function, convenience and durability. Here is the official information about the new design:

"Post is a collapsible handmade bicycle rack suited for the home or the shop. Influenced by classic tools and machines, the unique design was made to be elegant, convenient and long lasting. Post’s arms and legs are locked in place with sailing twine threaded through a removable brass pipe. No glue or tools are required, just the simple tying of a knot. Post can cradle bikes with a variety of frame sizes; more complex full suspension frames may not be compatible. It is important to note that Post is a freestanding display rack, not a work stand. It serves as a great solution for the bike enthusiast living in tight quarters, a retailer looking for the perfect rack, or anyone who wants to proudly display their coveted steed."

For additional images and more please make sure to check out Post on my "Work" Page. 

Landscape vs. Infrastructure

Cliffs, deserts, lakes, and other natural features remain undeveloped because they are too difficult to be built upon. In other cases, land that has once been developed can be abandoned and slowly, it becomes reclaimed. Sometimes, bits of undeveloped land can be found within cities, towns and neighborhoods. In extreme cases,  undeveloped land is surrounded by streets and quarantined off by neighborhoods. I find myself fascinated by the juxtaposition of land and infrastructure.

A view of the Mission Valley Freeway, San Diego

A view of the Mission Valley Freeway, San Diego

During my time in San Diego, I have become attune to the way architecture is built into the land. In simple scenarios, a plot of land is flattened, and a foundation is poured. It is easiest to build when the land has been planed. However, in more complex natural terrains where flattening is impossible, the architecture of a structure must be adapted to conform to the land. This same system can be applied to entire communities. When a neighborhood is built high up on an uneven mesa, the landscape must be edited to accommodate houses and streets. When a railroad is built in the desert, gravel must be laid to create a flat and durable railroad bed. I am interested in the different tactics used to build. Foundations, stilts, retaining walls and ramps are all architectural elements that manipulate the natural landscape to make it more beneficial for our society. 

What is the history of land? How has man, over generations, used land to his advantage? What has he built and what has he destroyed? Upon surveying a plot of land, what historical evidence of man's working does it display? Can evidence of the past, present, and perhaps even the future be found? What information is the land hiding? Are there remnants of the past buried just under the surface of the ground? 

A trail built into a cliff in Bryce Canyon

A trail built into a cliff in Bryce Canyon

"Government Property" sign viewed in Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego.

"Government Property" sign viewed in Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego.

I enjoy spending time getting to know a specific plot of land. I feel a sense of gratification becoming acquainted with a space's subtleties.  I observe the uses a land serves. I look for evidence of it's past lives. I study the land's proximity to human civilization. 

I am interested in furniture's ability to portray the peculiarities that occur when land meets infrastructure. Furniture, like land, is both object and surface. It can exist alone and it can support other objects. A plate on a table is not unlike a house built on the desert. I would like to explore these concepts in various ways in my next few projects. 

New Work: The Nook Table

The Nook table is a small and collapsable with a cabinet that can be accessed through two tambour doors. The components of the table are held together with small wooden wedges. Piercings in the table surfaces reveal evidence of how individual tambour sticks were cut out from the original plywood sheet. Once cut, the individual sticks were joined with a canvas backing to create the final sliding tambour. The tambour rides along a groove and slides to open and close.

The Nook Table

This summer I was lucky enough to take Wendy Maruyama's course at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. This is where the design for the Nook table was conceived. With the utilization of Haystack's CNC router in the Fablab, the components of the Nook table were cut out of a sheet of hand painted plywood. Later, the table was finished in the woodworking studio at San Diego State University, where I am currently a resident artist. 

Above are some photos of the table being built at Haystack. There are few places more inspiring than the picturesque mountainside location of Haystack. The school's campus provides tranquil Maine coastline and great studio facilities. In other words, it's a great place to spend two weeks as a maker. My class was great and Wendy pushed all of us to think outside the traditions of tambour construction. Everyone produced great work over the two week session. My personal goal was to break out of a funk that I had leftover from the final semester of my undergraduate program. Haystack provided the perfect opportunity for me to create something totally new and exciting. 

The collection of work created in Wendy Maruyama's tambour workshop

The collection of work created in Wendy Maruyama's tambour workshop

The design of the Nook Table represents many of my current interests as well as a shift towards a new direction in my furniture. I have found myself more interested in representing elements of infrastructure in my designs. A few examples of this can be seen in the design of this table. Its asymmetrical geometry is a nod towards the chaotic imperfection of the systems we build. Rather than having the tracks for the dual tambour doors fit within the confines of the piece as would be traditionally expected, the right tambour track juts out of the back of the piece. The table puts function first, in this case the function is the tambour door opening. The rest of the design was edited to accommodate this feature. The kink in the profile of the table allows the left side of the table to sit perpendicular to the wall, while the right side is forced away from the wall by the protruding tambour track. 

I also chose to work with the simple geometry of circles and rectangles to give the table a more industrial appearance. Cutting the tambour sticks out of pieces of the table not only creates a unique pattern, it also allowed me to cut down on material needed to create this table. I am interested in the process of cutting out functional components from other parts of the same object. This process becomes all the more interesting when the leftover pattern created from the cut can be used to create ornament. I hope to explore this way of working more in the future. I am also planning to further develop my understanding of how land is populated by infrastructure.

An above view of the Nook Table

An above view of the Nook Table

A detail of the Nook table Joinery

A detail of the Nook table Joinery

A rear view of the Nook Table outside the studio at San Diego State

A rear view of the Nook Table outside the studio at San Diego State

I will most likely be making more work along the line of the Nook Table in the near future. As of now, each object I design is unique and produced entirely by me. If you have questions, inquiries or comments please feel free to contact me anytime at rmorton@meca.edu. 

 

 

Cross Country Reflection

Hello from San Diego! I am all moved in and working as a resident artist in the graduate studio at San Diego State University through the fall semester. As I begin to design new projects, I am constantly thinking back to my cross country drive. It has been such a journey!

In ten days I travelled from Massachusetts to San Diego. That is pretty much the longest straight line drive one can make while remaining in the US. Over the journey there were so many sights that struck me as beautiful and foreign. I never could imagine how diverse landscapes are! The pictures below show a smattering of what I saw as I travelled.

It's so easy to be inspired by the breathtaking views from some of the national parks I visited. I was lucky enough to camp inside a few of the parks. Sleeping on the rim of a canyon only hundreds of feet from the ridge is an experience I will not soon forget. 

After seeing some of the wildest places this country has to offer, San Diego came as a shock. The city seemed like an alien environment when I first arrived. Cars are king here and the infrastructure of San Diego is built around them. I am slowly becoming acquainted with six lane highways and navigating the seemingly endless on and off ramps here. 

For now I am surviving and excited to begin work on a new body of furniture objects. I will be a resident artist at San Diego State until January, and I hope to have an exhibition of my work created during the residency sometime early 2015. Check back for details on the progress of my work and the exhibition.

From East to West

Since graduation from Maine College of Art, my furniture designs have been evolving. For those of you who have not heard, I am moving to the west coast to continue my furniture explorations. Over the next nine days I will be driving from Massachusetts to California, where I will be visiting San Diego State University. I remain fascinated with collapsable furniture, yet recently I have become equally interested in history. I have been searching for new ways to incorporate elements of time and texture in my work. 

Arches National Park, Utah

Arches National Park, Utah

This Summer I had a fantastic opportunity to study with Wendy Maruyama at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine. Wendy's course focused on learning traditional tambour construction techniques, and then pushing the limits of this unique way of building. While experimenting with my own samples for the class, I began to rough-up the wooden sticks of the tambour. I then painted and oiled the pieces to make them appear weathered. I was fascinated with these samples and their ability to "tell a story" through their roughness. 

The woodworking studio at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts

The woodworking studio at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts

Sample tambours paired with painted plywood

Sample tambours paired with painted plywood

I especially enjoy how weathered hardwood pairs with machined plywood. The contrast creates  dialogues between handmade and machine-made. I am hoping to utilize my trip across country to build a new database of imagery and inspiration. Please check back frequently to learn more about my trip and to find out where my work is headed.