Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mr. Natural and the Evolution of a Design

The artist, R. Crumb, his well known character, "Mr. Natural", was the initial inspiration for the design of a rocking chair that I built a few years ago.  I like how the depictions of the flowing bearded man often show him stepping out with purpose, and he seems in good balance and unfettered as he plows through his path in life.  If one reads the stories that accompanied the character, it is shown that people relied upon him for his clear pronouncements, yet there is also something a bit quizzical about the man, one should often expect the unexpected.  His shape of stability and assuredness in motion is what I also wanted embodied in the chair, along with the quality of being something unique, but with limited need for deliberation when viewed, the appearance being fundamentally solid and self explanatory.  If the curves are graceful as an accompaniment, then I would be thankful.  I desired a chair meant to be a rocker in total purpose from the beginning, not something that evolved to that from a previous history of being solely a stationary chair on four legs or other, such that often confuses me with the mixed messages of both rigidity and motion at the same time.

I liked the first edition of Mr. Natural out of some very rich Walnut, and so did a few clients of mine, but it was a bit experimental and eventually encountered some technical problems.  Perhaps those that also work with wood can pretty easily figure out what those were?  I wasn't oblivious to the possibility of a degree of failure resulting, but the form was compelling to me, and in the least wanted to test it out.  Following the advice of another R. Crumb character to, "Keep on truckin'", I thought the basic concept was worth pursuing, and went on to the next chair edition, also in Walnut, with one major change that I thought would alleviate the problem that arose in the previous design, along with a few smaller proportional ones. This model, seen below, also found a good reception, and I have made a number of them for people.   It further fulfilled my hope that a comfortable chair would likely reduce much in the way of hesitation from purchasing a somewhat expensive object gleaned from a certain comic book character, were one astute enough to notice the resemblance.  Crumb's Mr. Natural is a man of wit, intrigue, and charm, but sometimes his associations can be of a somewhat dubious nature.  Perhaps it is somewhat like the Buddha himself, who after achieving enlightenment, is said to have preferred the company of hell raisers and drunkards, over the more restrained type folk that seem more commonly met....

For a few years I went with the second design in the series, but responding to the
comment that my furniture sometimes tends to be a bit heavy, I thought less about the original inspiration and proceeded to refine the design to a lighter in visual weight chair. Most recently produced from some Cherry that I had stored for many years, and originally rescued from pulverization at a pulp mill, the results are shown below.  I was pretty happy with the way things turned out, and so is the dear woman from the next town over that commissioned me to make her a rocker of my own choosing, and now owns the chair.  Her most recent comment that when sitting down in the chair, she simply does not feel like getting up, pleases me to no end.  Success is sweet with new designs.

Still, wanting to see if I could take the chair to a further lighter weight, the results are shown below, the latest in the series  Particularly the front and rear legs are a lighter scale, as are the remaining parts of the chair to a smaller degree.  It was only a couple of days ago that I delivered the finished chair to it's owner, commissioned for her as a total surprise, an unexpected gift from a generous friend.  The wood is my local Chestnut, a material that I have come to much value and favor in recent work.  The recipient  of the rocking chair is a member of a large household comprised of three generations, from grandmother to still young grandchildren, so I expect the chair will get much use, and henceforth, remembrances will accompany it through the ages.  It all seems quite natural.

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