Im very new to all of this… well, I guess its more accurate to say Im not involved in furniture design or manufacturing at all… (also my first post so hello to everyone here)
I’ve been working in motion graphics for 6 years but Im done with it. I love all the creative aspects and troubleshooting but I hate sitting at a computer all day fidgeting with digital files. In the end theres nothing tangible or anything of substance. Kill yourself for weeks and after it plays on air for 30 seconds its gone, no one cares…
I have a relatively unrealized appreciation for beautiful furniture. Pieces not only for practical use but also just beautiful to look at. Ive always been pretty passionate about it without really realizing it.
SO, the point of my posting is, I was hoping some of the seasoned artists on this site might give me some insight or perspective on their whole world. How they got into, what they love about it, if they do it for money or for passion… Schooling / companies… Things like that.
Seems like there’s a lot of designers on this forum, but just curious if you guys also create the pieces yourself? Do many people have their own workshops? Does it work like that?
I guess Im saying Im naive to your guys whole world and if anyone is up for sharing, Id be interested in hearing some perspective… I respect what many of you guys and gals do.
i went to a college known for furniture design (kendall). my intentions weren’t to go into furniture, but i sort of fell in love with it. i came from an architecture and engineering school first and was was more interested in product design. furniture is the key industry in the area kendal is located, so as i landed my own co/ops and internships, they happened to be with furniture companies and design firms. i really found my core competency while working at herman miller. the design research associated with the furniture really sparked my imagination more than anything and it this sort of research and data that drives a lot of my designs to this day.
my career has taken me many places, geopraphically and professionally. i have designed a full gamut of of furniture products for many markets and categories. high-end residential, contract seating, heathcare, RTA, casegoods, institutional furniture, etc. it’s been pretty interesting. the furniture market is pretty volatile, though. feast or famine, really.
outside of work, i don’t make anything. i study stuff in the market, study the consumers, the home furnishings trends, electronics, sociology, technology. i also study fashion (apparel), automotive design, and product design. it allows me to disconnect and step back to see if what i’m designing is pertinent and useful, not just pretty.
i used build a little, but i don’t anymore. i may experiment a little at work, but at this point i’ve kind of ‘seen it all’ for joinery and building techniques. i’m more interested in applying new materials and processes. I design it, build it electronically, spec it, then send it off to a prototype shop half way around the world. it comes back in a container.
You left out the part where they screw up your prototype four or five times.
My quick life story is that I started my career as an art director, hocking smokes, booze and shampoo. I always loved design and especially furniture. I sort of stumbled across CAD after meeting Bart at Design Engine. I was hooked right off the bat. I first learned Alias then Pro/E. After the marketing agency I worked for lost a couple big clients I was “downsized”. Between employment I used Pro/E to design a friend’s nightclub in Chicago. This and other small projects led to my current job at Lumisource Inc, where I design furniture mostly for the “tween” market, including gaming chairs and also a lot of lighting. I’m sort of going through a backwards education right now. I’m learning to sketch properly and I’m continuously educating myself on different manufacturing processes.
I didn’t go to college specifically for furniture design (actually, I fancied myself as an automotive designer at first) but late in the game I did a couple of furniture projects and found that area of design to be quite fascinating. It was around that time that I realized that I didn’t go to the right school for automotive design, not to mention that I had discovered that there was more to life than cool cars…
I landed my full time furniture design position through a freelance illustration gig that I did before I graduated. I went and talked to them about full time work and it turned out that yes, they were looking to hire an in-house designer. I spent 5 years doing residential furniture design (primarily outdoor furniture) and while there was much I disliked about the company and the industry, I learned much about design, manufacturing, business, and life. I’ve been “out” of the furniture industry for almost a year now - as KFJ says, its feast or famine. There’s a lot of famine going around right now…
I do build a few pieces now and then, but the last few years my focus has been on building things other than furniture. I have a workshop, mostly a rag-tag collection of old, inherited, handyman-grade tools. On many occasions I’ve considered trying to start a business designing and building furniture, but it has not made sense (personally) to go very far down that path. I don’t think most in-house/freelance furniture designers build their own stuff, there are generally other people in place to prototype and manufacture (especially if we are talking about anything beyond cottage industry or designer-craftsmen). Studio furniture - as much art as design, IMO - is the complete opposite, close to 100% build their own stuff, but most everything is one-off or very limited production.
What I really had (and I suppose, still do) have a passion for is the furniture on the periphery of the industry, the avant gard stuff that shows up at the furniture and design fairs in Milan, ICFF, etc. It is almost overwhelmingly one-off or limited production, and probably alienating to most people, but I like the aesthetics and freedom of design; its the sort of stuff I like to design and build for fun.