JANINE WANG

Everything you don’t want anyone to see

(A very temporary name)

Collaboration with Brian Skalaski.

 
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A nightstand.

“… the primary function of furniture and objects here is to personify human relationships, to fill the space that they share between them, and to be inhabited by a soul.” —Jean Baudrillard

The wave of modern furniture that we are stepping down from sheds the symbolism of furniture for tact. Modern furnitures are mobile, flexible, stripped down functional expedients. Though very rational, there is a certain impoverishment to them; an absence of style, and an absence of meaning. It is no surprise then that in many current furniture trends we can see everything that modern is not—Colorful, over the top things: lumpy, stylized, narrative, highly textured, unclean, even unusable.

Furniture has a unique capacity to be intensely personal, in a way not well-afforded for by the modern aesthetic. My nightstand at home is one from Amazon, originally intended for my youngest brother, but so unparticular in its character, so flexible, stripped down, and functional, that it was easily passed over unassembled to me, when I moved to Philadelphia. It is such the epitome of unremarkable—a dull gray rectangular box of particleboard, with one drawer, that came flat in a box—that the contents housed within it feel almost disgustingly personal. A nightstand is actually a repository for the really intimate stuff of life. I’d like not to name what’s in my nightstand, but well, as Brian so aptly put it, “If you could you could put your whole life out on the table, you wouldn’t have a drawer in your nightstand.”

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Snug Stone

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From the Upper East Side to East Stroudsburg: A spot in a landscape.

Lunch periods, after school, we rollerbladed for miles, climbed up embankments, found ourselves laying on warm, sunny stones, arranged just so. Even city kids could learn to appreciate nature in a place as tame and accommodating as this. This is where I learned to find comfort in a landscape.

Central Park is not nature; It is an idealized version of it. As I would learn in architecture school years later, its architect, Frederick Law Olmstead, envisioned the park as an endless painting, with every path leading to a new view, every turn into an idyllic new frame, every close look at the scene to an inhabitable spot to plant yourself. Every tree in the place was planted deliberately, and every boulder and smatter of rocks, planted too. I only learned to see the artifice when my parents moved to the mountains of East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, but I did not learn to hate my old stomping grounds. I realized we could draw from this beauty and harness something that was there.

This “Snug Stone” is partially upholstered with garden gate springs, which produce an indescribable, comfortable and uniquely delightful seat shifting motion. The small stone holds a pocket of air, the smallest, latex. The homogeny of felt obscures the mixture of secret textures, and an experience only understandable through actual occupation. In the largest, the higher level is solid, while the lower (with the gate springs) is excessively accommodating. In my dreams, an abundance of these stones, at different heights and different sizes would encourage a person to discover their own place in the landscape they create on their own.

The wool is invitingly soft and warm. Embrace exploration, and then settle in.

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Cuppable Cups

 

My favorite thing about wood furniture is the feeling that comes from running my hands across it and imagining I can feel its maker’s experience. One of the most beautiful parts about learning a craft is being granted the power to read into the stories that objects carry. The hand lives on in the things that it has done.

We lead with our hands, into people, new objects, and places. I’ve always loved the idea of a handle of an object being the hand of it. A teapot can say “hello, please hold me this way.” And to “shake the hand(le)” of a building before entering is as a means of introduction to a space.

Our daily lives are full of mundane experiences in which our hands are so quietly involved that we can forget how dependent on them we really are.

This work is a woodturner’s meditation on the hand. It is based on my own hands, turned into accommodating gestures that hope to communicate an experience of making and turning, learning and listening, and holding and molding—from my hand to yours.

Made during the Windgate ITE residency, with many, many thanks to the Center for Art in Wood, NextFab & University of the Arts; Photo credit: John Carlano & Cristina Tamarez

 

 
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Hug Mug (form study)

 

(Long) Hug Mug

 
 
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Power Grabber (form study)

There are ways to hold things, and cups, that make you feel confidence.

 

Hug Mug

When did you last hug a mug?

 
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Stabilizer (form study)

from a particularly inspiring definition of "Bowl" which described it as "A simple device for stabilizing food."

Stabilizer

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Power Grabber

Inspired by the way a chalice projects an image of power to others, crossed with the body language necessary to grab a cup by its base, You drink with power, and never put it down.

Power Grabber (Sweetened)

 

Friendly Fingers (form study)

Lonely? Grab a cup. Loneliness never felt so good.

 
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Friendly Fingers

Like holding a new hand for the first time.

Small Latte

According to how I hold a small latte while walking

 
 
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Small Latte (form study)

"Grabbable Cactus"

The very first small latte turned into a grabbable cactus. When I realized the flange was not working in my favor, I nixed it. Then I realized sharp corners were not working in my favor and nixed those. When I finally decided to buckle down on a shape, I made the shape which was in the curve of my hand this whole time. Duh.

 
 

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Small Latte (form study)

 
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Offering One

Made in memory of Phil Brown, a kind and incredible turner who housed the Windgate ITE and gave us wood from his woodpile just before he passed away. This beautiful figured cherry was from that day, and has been offered to the center for Art in Wood, of which he was a huge part. Thank you Phil.

Hors D'oeuvres

The tiny wearable munchkins of the family. Worn between the fingers.

 
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Offering Two

Smooth and irresistable, the negative of the tops are reciprocated on the bottoms--- enough for one, or two hands to offer. They don't show up in photographs, but the most important things never do anyway.

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Personal Display

 
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I’ve never had a very good memory and that’s why, I think, I hold on to objects so tightly. I think we all do this to some extent. Some things are touch points, others are memories, some things we think are beautiful and just want to keep close to us. If not for our connection to them, objects on display are on display for others, not ourselves.

We display for ourselves, though. Surround ourselves with things we give meaning to, and in return those things give our houses the warmth and comfort of home.

As a designer, I can do what I was taught, and break it down. What are these things, what do they have in common, what do they look like that we would give them a place and power in our homes? It’s all so arbitrary. That’s what’s compelling about the personal connection, and what makes it special and yours. It feels like fate.

I could never presume to design for others an object programmed to be loved in this way. I might permit myself to house it, protect it, and cherish it. Can I make something that strengthens the bond we have with these things? Can I bring them closer to us? Make us more aware of them? Bring them out of basements and junk drawers and into our lines of sight and into our pockets?

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Moving House
 
Bubble-wrap the chimney, like a vase,
Its bouquet of wilted smoke
Tipped out, and pack the slates
The way you’d box a brittle set of books.
You’ll find the attic can’t be moved
Once the sky floods in, though another will appear
When the last trickle’s wrung from the new roof
And the dark takes place between the rafters.
 
Flat-pack each room, careful not to tear
the windows from their views:
they must be eased to their fresh prospects
to keep their perspectives true;
lead the bath out by the plug chain,
its tin legs squealing, and poke the electricity
from its hole with a forked stick,
pinning it to the ground by the throat.
 
Carry the doors on your backs,
For they’ve leant heavily against the world
They deserve this one good turn;
The foundations will make their own way –
Tap the ground gently when you arrive
And they’ll raise the surface like worms
After rain
 

 

Should you not have the time to memorize
these interactions, to squeeze all the air
out of the stairs;
should you be so utterly unprepared
as to leave your house behind,
rooms thrown around their walls
by the bare bulbs swinging in your wake;
should you have nowhere to set these thoughts,
fumbled at the beginning of the day
and caught again in a sunlit doorway,
 
Nowhere for the table and chairs to stretch
Their old shadows every afternoon
Or the floorboards to query each footstep –
Bury them, deep in the woods,
And fashion new ones in the glow
Of your little camp fire,
As wholves howl
High in the snow-covered hills
And the stars whistle over your head.

----Jacob Polley

 
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Grabbable Table

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An experiment...

After turning a pattern of beads to the dimensions of my hand, removing 1/4 of the spindle results in a 3/4 spindle that can be applied to any square edge surface, to make grabbing that edge instantly satisfying instead of slightly unpleasant. This simple piece of furniture frames this functional detail.

Form follows function and spoils you a little.

 
 
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Concrete Comforter

 
 
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A good, solid comforter...

I love the malleability of a good, solid comforter: the way, balled up, pulled under, or bunched across, a comforter is the perfect piece of furniture in the land of the bed. I have never been more comfortable than in the corner of my bed, with my comforter tossed in, then pulled and pushed just so. “Concrete Comforter” brings the comforter out of the bed and into the room, imbuing it with the structure, durability, and stability of furniture.

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One-legged Family

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A family of stools

A family of stools pushing the “one-legged stool” typology as far as it can go. This mixture of mockups and finished pieces, when put in the hands of curious people, results in a cross-pollination of discoveries, combinations, uses, and postures.

I love watching people make sense of objects which have no strict pre-determined single function or orientation. Even small variations in height, width, weight, etc. result in totally different sitting and playing experiences. Perches become rolling ottomans, seats become slumping devices… a combination of two chairs actually becomes a vehicle that can propel you forward, wriglingly, snakingly.

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Body at Work

 

(work in progress!)

Body at Work was based on the body shifts observed in a series of life-scale portraits, Body of Work, in combination with extensive experimentation exploring the ways in which we can reinvigorate and redefine turning’s role in furniture.

This seat accommodates for the way we work while “sitting still,” taking advantage of three qualities expressed uniquely in turned things: how the human body loves doubly-curved surfaces, how nesting profiles can combine to create complex surfaces, and how things turned can turn again once taken off the lathe. The seat is surprisingly comfortable and liberating.

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The complex curved surface created by the aggregate of hard maple spindles is actually surprisingly comfortable! The body loves doubly curved surfaces, and that is the beauty of spindles, bowls, and any turned shapes in relation to humans.

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Grounding Yourself

 
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Nothing much to Notice.

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