– Christopher Dresser, Principles of Decorative Design (1873)
Recently I was reminded of a piece of furniture that was made for me by the artist Stuart Beuhler around 1968-69. It was left with my brother in California when we escaped from there in 1972, and I suddenly recalled seeing it sitting on his front porch when I visited some years ago.
“Whaat” Eating Trough, Stuart Beuhler, c. 1968 (Photograph by Scott Wilder)
Did you ever try to dredge up memories from 45 years earlier? Not easy for the likes of me, but I’m trying to do it here, for it was an interesting story in an interesting time.
In those days I was a big eater. I was always hungry, and cooked huge meals for our little family, one of my favorites being a big pan of beef fried rice with vegetables. But it was as if I didn’t have a bowl big enough for the amount I wanted to devour. What I recall is that a conversation with Stu at some gathering of friends turned to the eating styles of medieval times, involving big troughs of carved wood full of comestibles. (I must have read about this in some book like Sir Walter Scott’s “Ivanhoe.”)
Our talk ended in a pact: Stu would make me a medieval-style “eating trough” in trade for a 1951 GMC pickup I had, which was at the end of its life on the road. He said he wanted it for an “art project.”
The truck had given us a lot of good miles; its last trip had been to the northwest coast, Humboldt County I think, where it had chugged up a steep mountain logging road, with me thinking it was going to quit right there and we’d have to hike out to the highway and hitchhike to our friends’ place on the coast. When we did finally make it home I checked the oil and it looked like chocolate milk – a cracked head, or something.
Stu had a pretty wacky approach to his art – I think he was doing installation, or event art, before its time. We managed to get the truck to do its last miles in driving it to Stu’s place outside Sacramento, and parked it his driveway. A large group of friends gathered round, including me, Sharynne, and our two-year-old son, talking and imbibing, as Stu brought out a cutting torch and got to work. His stated intention was to cut the truck into pieces, for what purpose no one was really sure. He crawled under the truck and started in on the frame, in what I now realize was a very dangerous move. (If done in the 80s, of course this event would’ve been videotaped; in these days there’d be a half-dozen versions on YouTube.) He somehow managed to cut through the structure of the truck without being crushed, and stood back as it broke in half and collapsed in a cloud of dust. I can’t recall whether we stayed for the complete dissection.
So, Stu made me the trough: it was cut from a hunk of 12 x 12” beam, with hardwood doweling for its legs, and a big circular hole carved into the top for food. He carved the word, “Whaat” on the side. It was “cured” with vegetable oil, as I recall. I used it for a long time, filling it with fried rice and chowing down.
I can’t remember much more, so, Stu, if you are out there somewhere, do you recall this, at all?
– Dave Wilder
If Dockwood Furniture were to become a “brand” in the current sense of the term, it would want to be a lifestyle brand.
We were deeply inspired along these lines by a recent tour of the brilliant exhibition at the Center for Modern Italian Art, here in New York City, of the work of the Italian Futurist Fortunato Depero. Not only was Depero one of the greatest in the Futurist genre, but his genius spilled over into many creative fields, including graphic design, furniture, architecture, and set design.
The thing that struck us so strongly in this exhibition were the examples from a new genre that he had created from scratch, which he called “Architectural Advertising,” which, in simple terms, employs the visual elements of an architectural execution as graphic communication of a selling point or brand.
In all our years in the creative arts we had never heard of this field. So we decided to try to apply it, on a conceptual level, to the marketing of our little business as a lifestyle brand. Here are some rough sketches of a Dockwood Beach Club and Showroom:
If you find yourself in New York, it’s highly recommended that you visit the exhibition (on until June 28, 2014) to see Depero’s phenomenal range of work: from painting, sculpture, tapestry, furniture, to the wonderful “bolted book,” a typographer’s delight!
We’d like to thank the Center’s Executive Director, Heather Ewing, for helping us to understand the wonderful concept of Architectural Advertising. And thanks, too, to the good people at the Smithsonian/Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum for arranging our wonderful tour.
We’ve added a new Architects section to our Things We Like page – three of our favorites: Gerry Cahill of Dublin; Work Architecture, and LOT-EK in New York; and the wonderful home of Spanish sculptor Xavier Corbero.
The first day of Spring seems like an appropriate time for the launching of our new website, DockwoodFurniture.com. For some time we’ve had the problem of making pieces of furniture and having no place to put them. No more room in our house! So we’ve decided to sell some of them, and have built the website as a showcase.
Please visit us at:
And a very happy Spring season to all!
– Christopher Dresser (courtesy of Phillips auction gallery)
We found that if you cut an old worn-out 4 x4 winter stick into three equal pieces they make perfect legs for a small drinks table, ideal for outdoor decks or porches. This one uses a heavy slab of cut slate as a table-top. (For more on winter sticks, see our November 16, 2013 post on the “Miss Piggy” Winter Stick Table.)