Stillwater News Press

December 8, 2011

Oklahoma State art students turn attention to chairs

By Ricky O'Bannon
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Because of countless iterations through history and a requirement for function, it could be intimidating to try to reimagine the humble chair.

However, Oklahoma State University art students were given their shot to bring their personality and imagination to a medium most take for granted, and the results are on display at the OSU Botanic Garden through Dec. 14.

OSU Art Professor Sallie McCorkle teaches one section of the three-dimensional design class responsible for the chair art installation. She said the class is taught to students with a variety of art backgrounds ranging from sculpture and visual art to architecture and interior design.

The project is the final stage of a three-step process. The first step is to find a chair that students enjoy looking at followed by creating a one-quarter-scale model. Students must make that model using the same structural design of the original down to small toothpick-sized joints.

Those models are subjected to a weight test where bricks are used to simulate the weight of a full-sized person, which McCorkle said is nerve-wracking for students. If the model chair fails, the student must start over.

The final step is a full reinterpretation of the chair. Students are limited to a 2-inch-by-4-inch-by-10-foot piece of wood, which forces students to use math to plan their piece. The full size chair also had to function, but McCorkle said students also got the chance to balance that requirement with their own creativity.

The project also gave students who didn’t have a 3D art background the chance to work with tools.

 “It’s awfully empowering to know how to use tools and understand how materials work,” McCorkle said. “They learn to figure out what are the structural elements, and then how (to) add decorative elements to that.”