Friday, November 20, 2009

does this dress make me look fat?

Design questions can be doozies. How can a husband answer a question like that safely and without getting in very deep trouble? Actually knowing something about design might help. What if we were equipped to discuss design intelligently?

Much less risky on the social front, but demanding some design expertise are the questions my box making students ask me about mixing woods. Using more than one species of wood in a project is regarded as a bold statement involving some risk. Mixing species of woods for decorative effect was done in the furnishings for all the Kings Louis of France, so we know it can be an effective design technique. My students like what I've done using mixed woods in my own work but wonder, "What woods work well together and why? Are there combinations of wood that work and some that I should avoid?"

I was asked to write an article on this subject for Woodcraft Magazine that I hope to send off today, and the question of how to successfully mix woods in a project provides insight into the "principles and elements of design," the rules taught to graphic and 3 D designers in art schools. In other words, to know how to successfully mix woods offers insight that could lead any woodworker to become a better designer of things made of wood. More to come soon.

The photo above shows one of the simple forms of mixing species of wood, inlaying one contrasting wood in another. The secret of effectively mixing woods has to do with two seemingly conflicting design principles... contrast and unity. Contrast is an important goal of product design, and unity another. Want to know how they both work together? In the sample box in the photo above, you see the contrasting color and line of the spalted wood, and yet, you will see hints of similar brown. That similar brown is what pulls the inlay and surrounding box into a unified whole.


Torch02 said...

That's an example of getting two woods to blend, but what if what you want is contrast? For example, making the long sides of a box out of one species and the short sides out of a second.

Doug Stowe said...

I'm not sure why you would do that? Do you have a good reason for it? Sometimes good reasons are the foundation of good design.