A couple of days ago, I cut out a form on the band saw and brought it home. I used a big chunk of cedar so it brought with it a nice aroma. I placed it on a bookshelf in the living room because I wanted to live with it for a few days. The basic form wasn’t in question – I liked the lines, transitions and proportions, but I wasn’t sure it fit the overall piece for which it was intended.
So my 10-year-old son and I were sitting at the table that night, knocking out his homework and talking about his day, when he noticed the piece. He asked me if it was a foot for a piece of furniture and I nodded my head. He regarded it for a few seconds and said, “It’s a very feminine shape.” Of course, I was very proud of the fact that he was able to articulate so well the feeling that the form gave to him. It is a feminine form. But that wasn’t my conscience decision.
I wanted the form to feel substantial and strong with well-proportioned curves, and a nod toward the roofs in Japanese architecture. I don’t remember ever thinking that I wanted to add a feminine element. I didn’t think that because the form had curves that it would throw it into the feminine realm. Does it? Are there masculine forms with curves?
So I got to wondering, is there a proportion of gender related forms that make a piece attractive? Certainly, different aspects of a piece of furniture could be given a masculine, feminine or gender neutral designation. Is there a mixture of these elements that would make an overall form more attractive? I got to thinking about Chippendale chairs, cabriole legs, organic shapes. If a furniture design was decidedly masculine, would it be less attractive than if it had some feminine elements that balanced it out? Does there need to be a balance in design?
By the way, we have a DVD by Charles Brock that deals with some of these issues – you should check out before Woodworking in America 2011 (for which he’s one of our instructors). The DVD is titled, “Shaping A Sculptured Rocker with Charles Brock,” and it would be a great primer if you’re interested in taking in his sessions on sculpting with power and hand tools.
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