THE “CELTIC CHAIR”
A couple of years ago I became intrigued with the idea of creating a chair design that was uniquely and recognizably Irish. It started with my lifelong love of the Irish culture and a desire to learn more about my own Irish heritage. I love dabbling in furniture design, so what better way to fuse two of my favorite things? This has not been an easy undertaking…and it is still a work in progress! The proverbial creative brick wall just keeps cropping up, and everyday life continually steps in to steal my time and inspiration. But I have kept the idea in the back of my mind and I keep working on it, along with researching everything Irish and everything furniture design. As for the name, well I haven’t come up with the perfect one yet, but when I do, it will be a proper Irish name—maybe a Gaelic name. So here’s an overview of my process and progress to date…
The sketches to the left are admittedly REALLY rough! This was an attempt to learn about the triskele and a simple Celtic knot. I not only wanted to figure out how these ancient symbols were created, but I wanted to explore the various styles. I had trouble figuring out to use simple geometry to create these complex symbols, so I ended up doing an online search to learn more about how to actually draw the curves in a way that would allow me to keep the proper symmetry.
The sketches below are the next phase, showing the progress I made with some techniques I learned using circles to create a very simple Celtic knot (on the far left). I’m still having some trouble getting the triskele exact, but I am continuing to practice and learn! The act of learning how to draw these ancient cultural symbols is contributing to ideas that will eventually be incorporated into my final chair design.
While I was making progress on learning to draw triskeles and Celtic knots, I struggled with the actual design of the chair itself. What design should be on the seat back? What about the chair seat? …And the legs? I was stumped--so stumped, that I put the whole thing on the back burner for over a year.
Several months ago I was just casually browsing some images about historical locations in Ireland and found myself looking at Celtic crosses. A question suddenly crossed my mind…What would a seat back look like in the form of a Celtic cross? So I did a quick sketch...
And the juices started flowing! All of the sudden I saw images in my head, and these images included a chair made of either dark cherry wood or mahogany, a Celtic cross seat back with an emerald jewel inlay at the intersection, a velvet seat cushion of matching emerald green, and seat rails with bas relief Celtic knot design.
Google SketchUp Models
The first rendition of the Celtic chair was a literal interpretation of my first rough thumbnails. I discovered very quickly that—while I loved the overall idea and design scheme—the line and form just didn’t “feel” right. It felt too rigid and linear…too “square”—and too squat. I had a vision of a regal side chair and thoughts of a High King or Queen sitting in such a chair…and this version wasn’t it!
After mulling it over for a day or two—or three—I took another look at the cross and the roundness of the ring. What if the seat was round? What if the chair legs were round and tapered? What about the base for the cross--would that have to be round as well? So I set to work re-designing my chair with “round” in mind. Each change brought with it a better feeling about the design and inspired more changes. The resulting chair felt more intuitive and balanced in terms of line and form. I still have very strong vertical lines to give the chair an added sense of height (an intentional 60” from floor to top of the cross), but the curved lines add a wonderful balance and unity of design from the ring on the seat back, to the circular chair seat, and down to the round legs.
What you don’t see here (I forgot to save a jpeg image while I was working) is the first round rendition of this chair with two rear chair legs. The rear legs didn’t work out well visually and somehow “felt” unstable with how close together they had to be placed to accommodate the size of the chair seat, which has a 22” diameter.
After struggling with the rear chair support, I thought “Why not just continue the vertical cross support down the back? And it worked! An additional element not seen here (yet) is the velvet emerald green seat cushion, which will be custom fitted for the chair. Other elements will be added soon, including the Celtic knot. In my vision, I see a Celtic knot design around the seat rail, in some of the empty areas of the cross base, and inside the arms of the cross.
While I am happy with the progress so far, there is much to do yet, and many details to finalize. My ultimate dream is to have this chair made, which will be a feat unto itself, as I am not a furniture maker! This will be a job for an artisan—an expert in woodworking and furniture building. So I will continue immersing myself in Celtic and Irish culture, working (and re-working) the design…and dreaming of the finished product.