December 2009

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on December 17, 2009 at 1:02 pm

This is the fifth (and final) installment in our series on the Vancouver woodworkers featured in our current MOV Studio Exhibit, Working Wood, on view now until January 3, 2010. The last word goes to Ben Burnett of Zillion Design.

What inspired the Pivot Table?
My background is as a sculptor, and my sculptures are always interactive. My progression into furniture design was fostered by a fascination with interaction, and the fact that a piece of furniture can be the ultimate sculptural expression. A piece of furniture can remain fresh if you’re able to interact with it. In the way that you’d rearrange the furniture in the room to keep the room fresh, you can rearrange this piece.

How does Vancouver influence your work? 
Strongly. I think there’s a simplicity to the West Coast style of things. There’s a warm minimalism in our surroundings. I also use a lot of local wood species—Western Maple is the predominant wood used in the Pivot Table. I’m also influenced just being around other designers and seeing what’s out there. We definitely influence each other.

What are the advantages designing and building furniture here?
The natural surroundings are, of course, very inspirational. There’s such a strong design community here, and I think people are really starting to take notice of Vancouver for this.

And the disadvantages?
The cost of living and working here is pretty outrageous.

Where do you source your materials? 
A lot of the metal I use, as is the case with the Pivot Table, comes from various scrapyards around Vancouver. As for wood, most of the hardwoods have to come from retailers, as there just aren’t that many hardwood species native to this area. I do end up milling a fair amount of local logs that I source from arborist friends and tips from people in the right places.

Whose work do you follow, in Vancouver or elsewhere?
When I first started building furniture, I was really influenced by Arnt Arntzen, and his amazing use of salvaged materials. Now it’s all the people I’ve come to know who are designing and building furniture, including Arnt. I’m lucky enough to share a studio with Peter Pierobon, who’s truly a pioneer in the studio-furniture world. There’s also Seiji and Himali Kuwabara of In Element Designs, and of course all the guys in this show, who do amazing work. Outside of Vancouver, the people I follow are diverse, historical, and not all of them are furniture designers: Hans Wegner and Arne Jacobsen, Mark Newsom, and David Trubridge, Anish Kapoor and Janet Cardiff.

What are you working on now?
Beds, beds, and more beds. I’m also designing an armchair version of my Slide Dining Chair.

Image credit: Wendy D Photography (for Zillion Design)

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on December 16, 2009 at 9:59 pm

This is the fourth installment in our series on the Vancouver woodworkers featured in our current MOV Studio Exhibit, Working Wood, on view now until January 3, 2010. Here, three questions for Christian Woo.

What inspired Low Bench?
The piece has roots in early-modern furniture, which was being designed mid-century. Emphasis was placed on form,
 function, and simplicity. The intrinsic values in the wood are
displayed and not overpowered by design.

How does Vancouver influence your work? 
I’m certainly inspired by Vancouver’s natural setting and some of the
architectural gems that lie within—and also by the promise in a very talented and recognized design community here.

What are the advantages of working here?
As a woodworker, I am in paradise here in B.C. People I engage with
generally have an affinity towards wood design and for me that is a
 really great thing.

Image credit: Christian Woo Woodwork + Design

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on December 7, 2009 at 11:20 am


Here’s that post I’ve been promising—long overdue! Consider this the last entry on the collecting-practices talk we hosted a couple weeks back, where we invited museum directors from the city’s west side—what Dr. Anthony Shelton of the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) refers to as the “other side”—to discuss their most recent acquisitions.

First, there was MOV’s Nancy Noble discussing the myriad changes we’ve made in recent months (a Q&A based on her presentation is found here). She also discussed the challenges of managing a collection that often reflects the “colonial wanderings” of Vancouver residents, rather than our new direction as a museum of Vancouver. Our name change wasn’t mere wordplay.

Then there was Dr. Shelton, who sees MOA returning to its “original principles” after wanderings of a different sort. When MOA was founded in 1949, the idea was to create a museum of world arts and culture. That’s the objective now, too. When MOA unveils its major renovation in January 2010, expect to see objects and ideas organized broadly by oceans, not continents, to underscore the fluidity of culture, spirituality, and philosophy.

Stories exploring the relationship between the world and Vancouver will be another area of emphasis. In collecting terms, this means a focus on acquiring or commissioning contemporary pieces, and efforts to grow the collections of regions currently under-represented, particularly Latin America, Europe, and parts of Africa. An exhibit planned for 2011 will look at beliefs between places and feature the work of 15 master-folk artists. Working title: Heaven, Hell and Somewhere in Between.

Dr. Wayne Maddison of the forthcoming Beaty Biodiversity Museum at UBC isn’t reshaping a history museum nor returning to a past vision, but rather, attempting to create a new institution from a collection of specimens amassed by university researchers over the years. MOV’s collection represents colonial wanderings; Maddison calls the Beaty’s an “accidental accumulation.” For him, the challenge is transitioning from neglected and varied collections to a consolidated public museum. Moving forward, they’ll be seeking items suited for display—specimens like the stunning blue-whale skeleton that will hang in their atrium, and, no doubt, be a major draw when the museum opens in 2010. We can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on December 6, 2009 at 11:59 am

(I keep meaning to cover our what-are-Vancouver-museums-collecting-now talk from the other week, but get distracted by other cool happenings, like this one. That collecting post is coming soon—honest!)

We love, love, love this gingerbread-house event we’re hosting this week at the Museum.

Following a successful run last year, the talented minds at Creative Room, a Vancouver design collective, have put out a call to architects and designers to “re-envision the traditional typology of the gingerbread house.” In other words: eighty-six the smarties, lollipops, and gummies, and modernize the houses beneath. Eleven finalists have been selected, and their houses (projects?) are now on view at the Museum. In addition, an online auction opened last week, with all proceeds going to the Vancouver chapter of Architecture for Humanity. On Thursday, December 10 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., we’ll host the Gingerbread Gala. The judges will critique the finalists, the bidding will close, and the winners will be announced. Preview images and descriptions of each house on Creative Room’s website and purchase tickets here. Right now, Nick Milkovich Architects’ Sugar Shack, pictured above, has the highest bid…

So, here’s a holiday plan for you and the kids: come to the Museum this week. Check out the gingerbread houses (they’ll be around until Sunday). Then, proceed to the Ravishing Beasts exhibit armed with our self-led family program/mystery guide: The Case of the Vanishing Beast. Our family and education staff have developed a compelling detective case, solved by collecting clues found in the exhibit. Learn about animals, local species, and history—and it’s free with admission. Details on that program here.

Happy holidays!

Posted by: Rosemary Poole on December 5, 2009 at 9:03 pm

This is the third installment in our series on the Vancouver
woodworkers featured in our current MOV Studio Exhibit, Working Wood, on view now until January 3, 2010. Now up: Derek Morton of Park Studio.

What inspired your coffee table?
The shape came from an airport hangar in Dallas, actually. I really like to try to keep the form simple so the material can speak for itself. I very rarely use lacquer, just all-natural materials and oils, and if I want something white, I use something in that colour. This table was designed in 2006 for my first Culture Crawl. It’s low-profile, with storage—a necessity for any good coffee table—and it’s a modular design so it can come with wheels, and customizable drawers. It can also be used as an entertainment unit.

How does Vancouver influence your work?
Mostly it’s the scenic qualities, nature and the urban environment. That urban and natural contrast influences my work a lot. With a piece like this you have beautiful pieces of wood contrasted with corian, a stark white man-made material. I’m a materials junkie.

Any challenges working here?
Good weather in the summer! I really don’t find too many. For me, the real challenge is making high design more affordable—there’s a major gap between Ikea and Inform [Interiors]. I’ve always focused on getting into that market, with the goal of making handmade design less expensive.

Image credit: Park Studio