Words and photos: Linda Nathan, Wood Review editor
Picture this. You’re in Nelson, New Zealand. Turn around and it’s a postcard view in any direction. Take a ten minute drive out of town and turn into the Centre for Fine Woodworking and, if you’re keen to learn, you’re in woodworking heaven.
Spend six weeks of your life in an open studio program experience with artist in residence Michael Fortune and you are plenty the wiser. You may have started with an idea of a design you wanted to develop, but you’ve been led into a world of endless possibilities that have explored line, form, shape, symmetry and asymmetry. You've then taken that idea from sketches, mock-ups and prototypes through to work on the final piece.
In this case however, the journey is the destination, because this open studio experience was not about completing a piece, but about the learnings to be gained along the way. Design development doesn’t end with a visualised end result. Joinery and the methods and jigs required to contruct a form are part of the design process as are the modifications which may happen along the way.
For the eight people who have just completed the open studio experience that took place from January to February, 2020 their immersion has been intense but rewarding.
Michael Fortune is the ‘anything but square’* furniture designer maker and educator from Canada whose work is known and collected all over the world. At this school in New Zealand, for six weeks, participants were encouraged to step out of their comfort zone, and to use their time as an opportunity to experiment freely.
While leading the journey of each participant, Michael and co-teacher Kelly Parker also worked on developing new designs of their own. Workshop technician and designer maker Lou Fuller was also on hand to manage and maintain the machine shop and provide technical assistance for the participants. As well as being able to look over the shoulder of Michael and Kelly as they worked participants could watch Lou construct a signing table designed by Michael for the Canadian High Commission in Wellington, New Zealand.
Taking six weeks out of their lives for an intense learning experience was a considerable investment on many levels, but for eight people the rewards were clearly invaluable and marked a new direction in their creative lives.
Issue 107 of Australian Wood Review will look at the open studio experience through the eyes of the people who took part in it. Learn more about the Centre For Fine Woodworking at https://www.cfw.co.nz
* Michael Fortune's article "Anything But Square" in issue 105 of Australian Wood Review looked the construction of exo- and endoskeletons as a means to constructing curved and angled forms.
Click on images in the gallery above to see larger views and read captions.
The current issue 106 of Australian Wood Review has just been released.