Chairs: Form Exploration

Investigation of the aesthetic relationships between people and chairs, through a curated set of values, beliefs, and morals with the respect to time.

Objective: Investigate the depths and reach of aesthetic relationships between people and tangible things. Create a set of values, beliefs, and morals that are to be embodied in the tangible designed, using a 35 year window to relate the affect of what is being developed in the life spans of people and nature.

Exploration of Different Aesthetics

Universal Form

Universal: defined as “something for everything or everyone”

  • understood by all, but not ness. preferred by all.
  • for example: a universal remote would change all the entertainment systems in a house, but not ness. all at once.
  • could be said to be the most common?

What is the universal form of saying “hello”?

  • a wave?
  • a smile?
  • a handshake?
  • what about those who are seeing impaired?
  • what about cultures in which there is a hierarchy in showing respect to different ages / roles / positions in society?
  • would this translate across animals as well?
  • universal = innate to human behavior?

What does it mean to be sufficient?

Through a brief exploration of the different types of simple chairs (ie. Tatami chairs in Japan, Ergonomic chairs for those with bad knees, etc.) I concluded that the two types of chair that are most “universal” are 1. a

1. Chair Icon (a “universal” image)
1a. Example of the universal chair (🪑Even the emoji looks like this chair haha)
2. Monobloc chair (the “worlds most common chair”)

Wabi Sabi Form

Wabi (“less than perfect”) + Sabi (“ripe with experience and insight”)

Wabi Sabi: a worldview that is centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection.

In relation to my first exploration of wabi-sabi — all the sketches created could be perceived as wabi sabi, as they are drawings that sometimes are subpar and “less than perfect” in visual execution, but could very easily so display heaps of “experience and insight”, through meaningful explanation, verbal communication, etc.

What is the wabi-sabi form of saying “hello”?

  • a wobbly wave? (say, a wave with a particular irk that does not make it ness. less of an indicator that it is a hello, but more so a wave with personality?)
  • a nod?
  • eye contact?

What does it mean to be satisfyingly insufficient?

  • sufficient under the scope of a chair: supports the behind + legs
  • “insufficient” aspects under the scope of a chair: supporting arms, head, neck, providing “coziness”, providing “entertainment”, providing balance

Wabi sabi, through the lens of actual chairs, could also be perceived as chairs that were made with utmost care, purpose, and skill, but could still present themselves as being very “imperfect”, or, lacking traditional forms of beauty and balance.

For example, many times, this can be seen in chairs that are made with great skill, care, and effort, but still have imperfect attributes, such as imbalance of materials, shape, etc. These imperfect forms can sometimes arise from the human’s skill in constructing the tangible artifact, the grain of the material itself, or the interaction between the human and the material.

What Wabi Sabi might look like:

Clear indication that there was intent for symmetry and balance, however, chair parts are created without a blatant force to fit certain molds, etc. (Interesting however, how the smooth finish / glaze contribute though, to the “perfect” ness of the chair)
Chair legs are obvious signs of “imperfection”, however, the table holds objects at a perfect horizontal level.

Not sure if this is Wabi Sabi — I keep going back and forth:

Careful effort in constructing a symmetrical chair (a circle bottom), however, given the natural wear of this artifact, there arises several imperfections (naturally occurring?)

What Wabi Sabi might not be:

Somewhat only seems to be a celebration of the “imperfect” — although not in use, it is hard to see this being chair having balance?
A collage of different scraps used to form this chair; somehow there is too much of a “scripted” use of these scraps to have each be distinct and different, yet oddly try to be super perfect with each other. Almost too much of a “Try hard”

One of the first associations that I have with “rustic” and “perfectly imperfect” in the most mainstream sense is American retail brand Anthropologie. Many of the products sold on the website exude a very “lived in and edgy” but still “extremely aesthetic” attribute, that can commonly be associated with “glamping”, and other hobbies and areas that dabble into nature, but still only at a comfort’s distance.

Example of one of the chairs being sold on Anthropologie (Question: what happens when this chair is torn? Being patched up with more fabric? Discarded like a plastic chair?)

Ultimately, it feels as though Wabi Sabi (at least associated in society’s context, assuming this popular retail brand is a good example of so) is the balance of embracing nature, imbalance, imperfections, asymmetry, etc. but all within the constraints to which we find comforting and visually appealing, and no more, thus, not truly embracing “imperfection” as is.

In many attempts, as well, I feel as though Wabi Sabi is at its “peak” when it is made with the objective of serving only one purpose, yet still has the ability to be placed under different contexts and roles.

Wabi Sabi, as a harmonious concept of being “mismatched” but together

Although these are just some examples that I’ve gathered of what I believe to be/not be Wabi-Sabi, the struggle with gathering these examples is that due to the nature of Wabi-Sabi, it seems as though everything with any sort of imperfect could be argued as Wabi-Sabi, despite there being many cases of “insufficient” chairs that are nowhere near “beneficiary” and “pleasing”.

Expressive Form

Expression: the process of making known one’s thoughts or feelings; a mode, means, or use of significant representation or symbolism.

The meaning of expressive objects is individualized; it is an object of perception, and is often made to appeal to the other persons aside from the one who produced it.

What is the expressive form of saying “hello”?

  • a wink? (possibly even an air kiss?)
  • tipping one’s hat?
  • the fan of fingers while holding your hand up?

Thoughts on John Dewey and Expression:

  • the act of expression = a construction in time; a prolonged interaction of self and objective conditions that gives form and order to both.
  • is expression = the experience of something?
  • what is the difference between just an “experience” in general, and “an” experience? → Experience occurs continually, all the time. Experience, is not an experience. An experience occurs when work is finished in a satisfactory way; is of something of great or even slight importance. This is also something of it’s own individualizing quality.
  • Artistic expression is not “spontaneous”; requires long periods of activity and reflection? → But what if this is not how some people “express” themselves, and/or think is “satisfying”?
  • Objects are not seen in isolation from the process that produced it, nor from the individuality of vision from which it came.
“Chairs is a personal piece” — Gizem Vural (creator of this piece)
Funny and playful — I like this piece a lot haha
A very individualized way of expressing a chair, and it elicits a good variety of mixed feelings— that being said, it does stand in isolation, as well as separated from its methodology of creation.
Without a doubt, giving to many different perceptions of what it might “feel” like — each experience varying depending on sitting, etc.
The creation — bending the metal — at the forefront of the design

Personal Explorations with lying material — paper and a paper fruit crate box. I was inspired by this Wallpaperplate project by Teruhiro Yanagihara, in which disposable paper plates are transformed from flat pieces of paper. I thought, however, that scaled up, these beautiful and simple vessels could perhaps take the form of a chair cup, (therefore also leaving the legs up to a whole other exploration)

Bending and cutting up a fruit paper box to create this, incredibly wobbly awful stool (envisioned was entirely not like so)

My Exploration of Chair Aesthetics

To conclude this journey of exploring different form aesthetics, I personally explored my own value sets of aesthetics, having manipulated house-hold objects as sources of inspiration and jumping points.

First, I set out to gather materials around my house as sources of inspiration, which arose in the following challenges and questions:

  • Which of the aesthetics / philosophers / perspectives does the actual material in front of me best align with?
  • What are materials around the house that spark interest and could afford to be manipulated in feasible ways?
  • How can I select the materials in a way that would still highlight the attributes of each element and alter them in a meaningful manner; understanding that I do not want to destroy the artifact itself.
  • Exploring, pushing, and understanding to what extent I could manipulate house hold objects without losing the spirit/nature of the object itself. (ie. I want to manipulate a soda can, but how can I do so in a way that is not just going to shred the can into unrecognizable pieces?)

From there, I moved on to sketching the forms itself onto paper, keeping in mind the following:

  • How can I translate the forms I see in front of me, into chairs that still encapsulate the major aspects and characteristics of the original form?
  • What are the most / would I consider the most rudimentary characteristics of the form I am holding? What are the more fine-tuned aspects?
  • From the rudimentary, what are elements that I would consider defining as a “rule” and “chair must haves”? What are the elements that are less so, and speak more to embellishments?
  • Which of the aesthetics / philosophers / perspectives does the chair begin to align with / adhere to as I draw? Is it the same as the previous aesthetic? If not, why does it divergence?
  • How can I incorporate my own personal aesthetics into each of these drawings?

Personal Chair Explorations 1.0 — using household materials and drawing in relation to figures.

Personal Chair Explorations 1.2— continuation of the two previous forms, with the addition of third.

Following these two explorations, I decided on adding a third final addition to the series, in order to round out my chair exploration to three types. I also began to sketch more variations of each of the chair types, to further understand the boundaries to which I could push and alter each in an aesthetic format.

After these chair explorations, I spent a great deal of time trying to decide how to draw my final series as well. It has been a while since I last drew in a “formal context”, in which the drawing would be incorporated as part of the final outcome. I played around with using Copic marker, black ink, blue ink, and blue pencil to explore the possibilities; ultimately, I settled on using a blue Copic marker with a blue pen outline, because I felt as though those fit more so along the lighthearted and simple nature of my final three chairs.

As I began developing each of my chairs onto the layout of the page, I found myself most gravitating towards and interested in the actual form and shape of the chair, first and foremost. I found myself thinking, specifically, how the shape of the chair branched from the house-hold material would actually scale up and respond to a person sitting in it. I thought of the actions that each of my chairs allowed and facilitated in parallel with my thoughts from the week of Dewey and Expression readings; the act that an expression is a prolonged interaction of self and objective conditions that gives form and order to both, and that objects are not seen in isolation.

With that in mind, my focus shifted primarily towards three main concepts: 1. the actual visual form of the chair itself stemming from house hold materials as inspiration (object in isolation) 2. how that shape itself appeared in isolation, responded to action, and appeared again, in action, (object with user) and 3. what types of a “world” does the chair embody both in use and not in use (object with user in context of environment).

Below are the final spreads for each of the chairs that I have created.

Chair 1
Chair 2
Chair 3

Design & HCI & Physical Computing @ Carnegie Mellon University