Monday Morning Seminar Series and Display Cabinet

As the title states this seminar series is held on monday mornings, it is designed to addapt to the responses of the audiance with each iteration. The tutors, regardless of their own position on the topic of discussion, always provided an opposition and counter-argument. This was to keep the audiance on their toes and thrust them into defending a position.

Monday 3nd Oct 2016 – Formalism and Relativism

There are many different movements, philosophies and descriptions to explain and analyse creative works. We were introduced to a new partition, that of Formalism and Relativism.


  • Formalism is primarily interested in shape, colour, texture, material, volume and the independant merit of the work.
  • Relativism on the other hand is interested in interpretation, narrative, context, figure and the creator’s biography.

Two opposite corners of the room were designated as formalism and relativism. Then a task was set where we had to sit in the corner that best described our work, this forced me to treat the two as a binary choice. Thus to begin with I was firmly on the formalist side of the room. My decision was based on the ecological use of material. As a formalist the amount, type and volume of a form is vitally important. Where as these are secondary to a relativist, favouring how materials conjure feelings. The premise that relativists are inherently wasteful inflamed the other side. They defended by claiming that the material is not wasted if the positive actions of those who view the work are taken into consideration.

As arguments and counter-arguments were made it became clearer to me that you can’t have one, without the other. Choosing one solely to the exclusion of the other, is in my belief, not reflecting the work accurately. Creative works are often far too complex to simply slap a label on them. Especially as artists challenge preconceptions and the limits of definitions.

A variable to consider is that of the differences between the creator and the spectator. This is something that was discussed in the seminar. What happens if a formalist artist creates a piece of work without context and narrative. When a relativist spectator views it, their eyes might see a pattern or the work might trigger a childhood memory. In an attempt to mentally process the work a context and narrative is made up. Even though the creator did not intend it, what ism is correct? My answer to this quandary is to prioritize one while still recognising the other. Therefore I still remain a formalist but I recognise the relativist aspects of a piece of work.

Monday 10th Oct 2016 – Octavio Paz

The reader for this week was dense and, I felt, difficult to absorb. Nonetheless, I did pick up on a few points.

The piece is written from a pro-craft position, calling art a religion and design a cult. I would completely agree that art is the secular contemporary religion and the museum is its cathedral. But I differ on the notion that this is a negative effect. I’m completly okay with this trend, my only detraction would be that museums don’t fully partake in this roll. This has correlations to a internet video series I watch; called the school of life.

The reader also calls design a cult, as design practices generally follow a principle borrowed from the field of mathematics, where simple equations are favoured over more complex ones, even though both give solutions. In the design world this is translated into the less is more phrase. Anything above what is necessary to complete a purpose is excess.

My thoughts on this are much the same as the art section above. The cult comment does have some truth to it, however I disagree with the negative overtone. The Bauhaus was the birth of design, and most contemporary design practices subscribe to the same or very similar principles.

I find the idea that craft will make any meaningful or long term come back to be a ridiculous one. A civilization will choose the path of least resistance and that which is most economical. Design and mechanical, or a more contemporary version; digital, industry are far more efficient; there is a reason Ikea is so popular.

I disagree with the readers gloomy position on technology. Modernity and technology has in my view raised us up. My position on this comes from my interest and semi-belief in post-humanism.

Monday 17th Oct 2016 – Display Cabinet

There are glass cabinets near the entrance of the 3nd year maker studio. We were given a small assignment to fill a space each in these cabinets with maquettes.

During this week’s seminar we were tasked with putting sticky notes on the cabinets describing what we think of the work and how we would categorise it. Unfortunately, my table design didn’t print fully, and I didn’t have enough time to print another one.

The phrases stuck to my space were: design, fascination with OSB board, design and functional. I’m very happy that others are calling my work functional design.

One if the things I needed to work on is the professional finish of my work. So I placed some wax, oil and dye material tests along the back of my cabinet.

It was difficult to apply the coatings to the boards, as OSB is rough. If I go forward with this material I will be sanding the surface first.

Monday 24th Oct – Material and Materiality with Zoe

The first task of this seminar was to define the two terms.


  1. Empty and void of meaning and status.
  2. The matter in nature; unprocessed by humans.


  1. Values of the material applied to it by humans.
  2. The matter processed and formed into useful items.

I disagree with the status value of a material, a kind of material hierarchy where it is organised by preciousness and rarity. An example of this value system can be seen in gold. it is expensive because is it rare and could be a reason why some people wear it; it gives them an exclusive status.

I subscribe to a more utility value of material. Where gold, with it’s unique scientific properties, would be used according to those qualities and not the whim of prestige.

There is of course the labour part to this. Where an outcome is comprised of low status material. But is higher up the hierarchy due to the time and still put into the outcome. this is often found in upcycling and art; see Sue Webster.

In Julie Brook’s work and much of Andy Goldsworthy’s work, the material is useless out of the context of their work. The objects are formed but material is not used; over time it will be returned to nature.

Monday 7th Nov – The Sublime; think of a time you were in the sublime

We were asked to bring an example of a sublime experience, preferably one based around an object.

Ingrid kicked us off with sharing how an audio installation with its all encompassing sounds brought her, and other visitors, to tears.

The discussion was then opened to the floor. Music and nature were popular bases for an experience. I can appreciate both of these types of experience. They can be beautiful and striking but neither have driven me to the sublime.

There was an interesting example of a group experience. Someone being emotionally moved to tears by parades. I can understand how a mass of people can be an experience. One of the things on my  bucket list is to visit Mecca to watch Muslims pray towards and walk around the Kaaba.

The last point discussed was those who have never felt a sublime experience. This is where I stand, I’ve often be bewildered, amazed or in awe, but never a complete emotional experience that brings me to tears.

I often fall back on a reductionist thinking, a painting might be outstanding and an accomplishment. but it is and always will be just an amount of paint on a canvas arranged in a particular fashion.

Although I have not felt the sublime, I have had some heightened experiences. Audio alone is often not enough to elicit a response. However I have below some visual audio examples that send tingles up my spine.

There is one other experience. Swimming in the sea at night, while it was raining . It was very liberating. I was free, just me and the endless dark liquid expanse. But even then still no tears, just a quiet pondering.


Material Experimentation

Following up suggestions from the Second Group Critique. I decided to create some small test boxes out of the three main types of sheet wood, MDF, OSB and Ply.

I mistakenly chose an inefficient method of CNCing. I was thinking of the each piece as if it was a different file and a different cut. Therefore I chose the smaller CNC machine. This meant that every piece needed to be loaded individually. This took a lot of time and labour on behalf of the technicians. I could have treated them as a whole, create one big file and have it cut on the large CNC machine in the FabLab.

Small bridges were needed to hold the piece down while the cutter goes around the edge. Without these the piece would fly off and damage the machine.

Material Bridge


Pushing the piece I want out of it’s frame is the first job. This was easy with the MDF & OSB. However, with the Ply little bits of splintered and broke away, this ruined the clean surface.

This was probably due to the layering of Ply. If I use Ply again I will use a band saw to cut the frame away. Unfortunately, the Ply also bowed.


Videos and Properties of OSB

Properties of MDF

The MDF Pieces slotted together nicely, however both the OSB & PLY pieces were loose. I think this is down to the individual CNCing process I had chosen.

I attended Huw’s furniture club. Where he explained one of the positives of MDF is that it doesn’t have any wood grain as it is a 100% manufactured material, therefore it does not twist or bow as normal timber might.

Images: Materials – Mitchells Building Series 5th Revised edition Alan Everett, C. M. H. Barritt]

Properties of Ply

I didn’t much like this the cheapest version of Ply, the more expensive and most recognisable ply is the white birch covered kind. Aesthetically, this cheaper Ply surprised me how beautiful it looks. I also think this version is better as it gives a bit of colour. The pale viable layers along the edges contrasts with the red/brown surface give off a two tone aesthetic.

Properties of OSB

The OSB has more texture out of these examples. However, it requires a lot more sanding. I think it has a rebellious connotation when compared to the others; they have a more subtle aesthetics. This rebellious streak is very apparent when touched and handled. It is both physically and visually tough.

Boxes stacked next to each other


Second Group Critique (Pitch)

Second Group Critique (Pitch)

The second group critique is called a pitch, which implies I have an idea for an outcome. however I don’t have a fully formed idea yet. So I have chosen to communicate the direction I’m going in.

These are the images I showed in my presentation.

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These are some key words that the group extracted from my presentation; furniture, interior, storage, wooden.

I also showed the idea I had been working on that very morning.

It is a type of fixing that would be used to hold the corners of a table or wardrobe. A few millimetres in from the edge of each sheet of wood are bolts. One bolt is bigger than the other and houses a slot so that the other bolt, which is smaller, can fit inside it. Once they are tightened with nuts it should fix the sheets together, forming a strong and stable structure.This was immediately critiqued as not being fiddly and not in line with my principle of easy to use (assemble and disassemble).

Discussion quickly turned to a topic related to our seminar series. I explained that I identify as a formalist. and that I am aiming to use OSB (oriented strand board). This was challenged for not necessarily being the best material to use from a formalist perspective, due to the potential splintering of the material when cut. I defended my position by claiming the material is structurally sound when handled with skill. I stated that this was proven by my OSB desk from the previous year. It was suggested that I look into alternatives, such as MDF and ply. [note to self when the seminar series post is published, link it here] [and link to osb desk in – More Responses to the Summer Project]

It was also suggested that I had chosen OSB for aesthetic reasons. I disputed this, saying my reason was based on cost. I made it clear that if MDF or ply prove to be better materials I would happily use them instead.

After Works

I have followed up the suggestion for material experimentation at this post.

This interior section of a magazine, better communicates the direction. It demonstrates an open plan bedroom and shower and custom designed and manufactured storage. this is a example of how to get the best out of a awkward space.

22 August 2016, Grazia Daily, Issue 590

Both the above attempt and this image are a turn in direction towards making for compact domestic spaces, primarily the student private housing sector. I say this because student houses often have difficult and unusual space and regular furniture doesn’t fit the space. I say this from experience.

Additional Lines of inquiry

More Responses to the Summer Project

More Responses to the Summer Project
FireShot Screen Capture #007 - 'BirchMaker (@birchmaker) • Instagram photos and videos' - www_instagram_com_birchmaker.png
Click the images to visit my Instagram

Continuing on from the previous year, where I designed a desk, I thought I might be a logical move to design a chair to go with it. This is the CAD mock up I did as a way of exploring this option.

I’ve been looking in the Screw Fix catalogue for inspiration. The kitchen could be an exciting move.

I would like to use concrete to create a kitchen worktop and hang OSB cupboards underneath.

[Author’s note: Insert the rhino screen capture of n design ]

If this was to happen I think a sponsor would be needed.

Container storage unit

OSB shelving unit with pull out containers for drawers


[Author’s note: Insert rhino drawing of multi storage with premade drawers]

Retail clothes rack, with wheels

I can imagine this design being placed in shops like All Saints or Urban Outfitters, as they share a similar interior aesthetic. that being striped back, industrial and exposed brick, concrete and pipes.

People and Furniture

Furniture that people interact with; sofas, hammocks and beds. These forms are more difficult. especially as I tend to work in hard materials. Fabric and padding would need to play a part in any of these forms, to ensure a comfortable experience.

Space Guidance

Obviously an interior and its furniture is governed by the buildings fixed external frame. Influenced by these images, I think the pallet would be a good basing for a new build.

I say this because it has the ideal dimensions for personal space. if the priority is the compact use of space for a higher housing density, then personal space must be the foundation.

Questionnaire & Tutorial


  1. Identify three key values in your own practice?
    • Practical – Needs to perform a function and be useful in daily life.
    • Minimal – Efficient use of material for environmental reasons. Clean simple lines for clean and simple use.
    • Social – Shared spaces and communal living and small one person dwellings.
  1. What is the purpose/function of your practice?
    • (Why do I make?) To Solve problems and to make better what has become before us.
  1. Who is your audience/user?
    • students, young adults, professionals, couples and first time (property) buyers.
  1. How do you access them?
    • Social media and WordPress
    • Design Showcase
    • Appealing to commission opportunities in similar interest areas.
  1. What materials and processes that are important to your practice?
    • In the present: CAD, CNC machine and sheet timber + Mould making, concrete and glass
    • In the future: I would like to revisit fabric and sewing as a part of my continuing interest in fashion.
  1. What skills do you want to progress to a professional standard this year.
    • Professional showroom finish on outcomes – I want to be happy with the quality of my work
    • Exposure and marketing of my practice Social Media and WordPress and at shows and at networking events.
  1. Where do you situate your work/practice within a professional context?
    • Non-gallery, selling to businesses, organizations or groups.
    • Living and working space.
  1. Identify 3 professional practitioners/environments that work in the contexts identified above.
    • Unanswered
  1. Where/how do you see yourself working in 5 years?
    • My general long term goal is to start my own design and manufacturing/construction company. However I’m unsure if this goal can be achieved in 5 years. Alternatively, a more realistic 5 year goal would be to have a financially stably practice.
  1. How do you know if your work is of a professional standard
    • When viewers turn into buyers and I can believe that they are buying my work based on merit.
  1. Where can it all go wrong?
    • Lack of information or knowledge in turning my education into a practice and then turning that into a company. I currently don’t know how to do that.

Cabinet Task

There are glass display cabinets near the entrance to the maker studio. We, the third years, have been tasked with filling them with a maquette that communicates our creative direction.

This is just an initial idea to get things going. Currently I have this file printing on a ultimaker 2+. Once the file is complete it will fill my cabinet space.


Taking the point from my tenth slide from the Summer Project, and inspiration from the 3nd year maker space in the CSAD building. I designed this large meeting table and shared worktop. The two legs are adjustable so that activities at the table can happen standing or sitting. Located in the centre is a storage compartment for keeping a projector. There are slots around the edge for papers, phones, laptops and other items not needed during an activity. This is to accommodate a large scale environment.


Tutorial Feedback (from Jon and Ingrid)

both stated my answers are vague and non-specific.

Thing to consider

  1.  Methods of designing
    • Open-source: Where I specify materials and tools that can be obtain from consumer sources, such as DIY shops. My designs can be followed by the user independently of myself.
    • Web: Designing for a web platform and then people can buy my designs and make them themselves or for others.
    • The whole: I have full control of design, management, manufacturing and then distributing
  2. Research business models
    • open desk
    • momentum
    • nought one
  3. Research start-up businesses
    • manifold studio
    • fresh west
    • grove labs

I was set a design task to test professional working practice. The challenge was to design a stool, for This is the design I sent in with my application to become an designer.


Forming a design context.

Some key questions to answer going forward.

  • What am I looking to improve/solve?
  • Who does this refer to?

If I am to have a professional design lead third year, I will need to connect, observer and interaction with the target consumer. consider conducting focus groups and questionnaires.


First Group Critique (Summer Collection Project: GESAMKUNSTWERK)

First Group Critique (Summer Collection Project: GESAMKUNSTWERK)

I was set a research project over the summer holidays, this is to get us ready for the third and final year.

The brief stated, I was to collect images of “ideal” objects that contain characteristics that I seek in my own creation of objects. I want to make it clear that there is no objectively perfect object. For me a perfect object is one that suits it’s purpose, environment and context.


Click the Pin to view this collection on Pinterest

We had to present our collections in a Pecha Kucha style presentation. Everything in my Pecha Kucha is primary research i.e. was viewed by me in person.

1) Empirical Jungle (2003) by Richard Deacon, from The Fragile Exhibition at The National Museum Cardiff.

  • I was interested in the structure of the sculpture.
  • How the volume is used to create different views point.
  • Physical manifestation of a non-personal naturalistic god, as opposed to a human like entity or personal god.

2) Deep Face (2015) by Douglas Coupland, from The Whitechapel Gallery, London.

  • Interest in privacy issues and the internet.
  • This piece is about privacy in our digital era, and how companies like Facebook can scan people’s faces.
  • Hint of de stijl and I’m a fan.

3) Wood, Water, Fire, Metal by Danielle Flowers from Maker, Materiality in process Exhibition at The Cardiff School of Art and Design

Wood, Water, Fire, Metal, photo by from Danielle Flowers website.
  • I enjoy this composition, the contrast of materials and the arrangement
  • This artist when on to make lamps out of these materials. When I viewed them I saw how professional they were. I will be using this example as a point of inspiration.
  • Interested in glass and wood and metal as materials for my practice, as opposed to clay.

4) The Aftermath by Yalda Bozorg at Cardiff School of Art & Design Show

The Aftermath, photo by Carter Birch
  • I am considering using concrete in my practice. potentially brutalist sculpture or furniture.
  • I watched this artist set her work up. The delicate placing of these pieces are in contrast to the hard concrete.

5) Composition C (No.III) with Red, Yellow and Blue (1935) by Piet Mondrian at Tate Modern

  • I have always wanted to see Mondrian’s work in person.
  • I’m very intrigued by it’s asymmetric quality and yet still seeming balanced.

6) Eames Storage Unit 421-C by Charles and Ray Eames from Victoria and Albert Museum

  • Example of modular furniture design.
  • Simple straight lines with a mix of interesting textures.

7) 6-axis Kuka robot by the Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL) form the Veronica Scanner: live 3d portraiture exhibition.

  • This is a new kind of manufacturing to me.
  • Could being used to make knoll posts for staircases.
  • Idea: I would like to combine flat bed CNC machine with scanning technology, so that the robot can see the texture of the material and can move the cutting tool more intelligently.
  • rhetorical, are robots artists/sculptors?

8) Legioblock by AJ BV found at Shoreham Port

  • Continuing my interest in concrete as a material and of modular objects

9) Unknown title by ceccotti collezioni at the Chelsea Harbour Design Centre


  • Designing a chair that can match my desk from last year is a logical move.

10) Unknown title by ceccotti collezioni at the Chelsea Harbour Design Centre


  • Signifies me wanting to continue table designs and making them bigger. A table as a communal shared object.

11) Fountain by Marcel Duchamp seen at Tate

  • Signifies that I want my work to be mass produced.
  • Marcel Duchamp approved the production of four additional Fountains. Further distancing his work from the idea of unique pieces of art.

Closing Thoughts

I am wanting to incorporate a social element in my work. however this is a side note a not a strong desire. during the feedback from the group, it was suggested to the social, privacy elements with furniture.

Additional points of interest that were not in my Pecha Kucha

The sea defences at Shoreham port

Crown Buildings, Cathays Park, Cardiff.

Grow CNC by Michael Warren

This is the only one I’ve not seen in person.