Thursday, 12 November 2009

Michael Thonets No. 14 Bentwood chair

Michael Thonet No. 14 Chair 1842

The No. 14 chair of Michael Thonet demonstrates elements of art, design and craft. Michael Thonet dabbled in all categories throughout his career. Firstly he used design, when creating the chair model and the wood bending techniques. He developed these techniques and got a patent for them in 1842; designing furnishings as simply and cheaply as possible was the foundation for much of his work. His making and creation of the chair was ,in my opinion, very artistic in the early handcrafted stages. However in the later stages of production much of the artistic elements are lost to the industrial processes. Therefore I believe the chair mostly reflects craft skill and production. The hand process of making the chair is craft, as well as the construction and assembling.

Through my study I have witnessed a general consensus that handy craft is a dead art in modern society. To a certain extent this is becoming true with technology developing and improving constantly. However it is becoming a common view that the importance of a physical skill is as vital as technology. As technology becomes more accessible and easy to use for everybody; I observe an ever need for a multi talented worker. Research has also demonstrated opinions that craft is considered separate from fine art; however, in my opinion, the basis of a good artist is a craft skill.
Craft can be considered none creative, mechanical or even just a chore; personally i find these opinions are deeply ignorant and unfounded within the working world.

Through a personal experience in the education system i have heard the word 'Art' used very loosely. However its meaning is something much more diverse and controversial in society. From the dawn of man art has been something we desire; from the early cave drawings all the way up to the dominantly conceptual market of today.
Attitudes towards art are deeply varied- much negative; in the book: 'The Art Scene' discusses this. In my opinion there is no doubt that art is not just a hobby but a deeply embedded part of human life. Art today is everywhere it can even be considered a form of currency and is a very important to worldly trade.

Through a series of lectures I have discovered that Design is the result of an industrial labour process in the 18th century. The division of labour formed at the beginning of the industrial revolution; produced the problem of who would create the ideas, the drawings. The job of a designer was created. The bentwood chair was designed by Thonet for mass production and commercial use. Thonet used soft woods to create his designs using the cheapest materials around for cost efficiency; an important business element taken all the way through to the 21st century.

As a generalisation the chair shows elements of art, craft and design. Yet it is potent that craft and design is the main body of this object. Furnishings such as chairs are now more cut and created using machines. My observation is that traditional craft is now more specialised and often expensive due to the skill and time spent to create.