I made one of these boxes during my 52 boxes project. It was box 11, which was based on some boxes that I had made before I started my year of box builds. And those original boxes where inspired by the round barn at Hancock Shaker Village. Like the barn, the boxes have three levels, the pull being the analogue of the cupola. But they're not a strict interpretation of the barn. The lid sits in a rabbet rather than overhanging the sides to mimic the eaves. And the pull shape is quite a bit different from the straight sides of the cupola. The box is a stylized and modern interpretation of the barn. I don't know if the barn is painted with milk paint (I once asked, but can't remember the answer), but the fact that it is painted is why I used milk paint on my boxes.
The Shaker inspiration aside, it's a simple design, but there is something about it that's also rather elegant. I think the elegance comes from the the slightly tapered diameter. The boxes are just a hair bigger at the bottom than at the top. It gives them a touch of lightness. The lines are very clean, too, which helps. The pull is a shape that I've been making for years. It varies a bit each time I make it, as you can see in the photos, but at its heart is a curve that I make by testing to see when the pull fits comfortably between my thumb and pointer finger. I like how using the human body as a guide for a pull's comfort, a chairs height, etc. results in beautiful work.
There are three different sizes of the box, the largest being about 3 in. diameter. The smallest box is perfect for holding a ring. I use one the size of the largest to hold spare change on my dresser. As for the woods and colors, there are two woods (cherry and walnut) and three colors (Federal blue, Marigold yellow, and a green that I make by mixing the other two colors). There is diversity in the boxes, but also they are nicely tied together by the limited wood and paint choices. I like the walnut box with Marigold lid box the best.
OK, that's it.
I started to make this box at the beginning of September, when I was teaching a class on kumiko at Peters Valley School of Craft. It was just something to work on at night, after the class was over. It's 2 in. tall, 3 in. wide, and 8 in. long. The sides are 1/4 in. thick. The liner inside is about 1/8 in. thick. That's a bit irrelevant, though, right? This box is all about the kumiko panel in the lid.
I don't think this is a real kumiko pattern, but it is based on one. Each of the rectangle patterns is one half of a square asa-no-ha, or hemp leaf, pattern. I like it because rectangles work better than squares with the shape of my boxes. The kumiko pieces are just 1/16 in. thick. That's very thin and a bit tricky to work, but it's proportionally right for the size of the box. It took me a while to settle on a fabric to put beneath the kumiko, but I think I got it right in the end. The challenge is to find a pattern that's small enough to repeat within the panel, but also not so busy that it's distracts from the kumiko pattern. I tried many floral prints, but none were quite right. This abstract patter does the trick, and the blue is a great background color for the creamy pale color of the basswood.
Why two little leaf patterns instead of one? Partly because the math just doesn't work for one. The height of the individual leaf patterns is one half the length. To get a single long pattern into the lid, the box would need to be wider. However, the box's proportions would then be all wack. And nobody wants wack proportions--me least of all. More importantly, there is something nice about the pattern repeating. I'm not sure what it is that's nice about it, but it looks right to my eye. A single pattern would not be as pleasing.
Here's something that I've learned about kumiko: I like making it. I love the precision of it, but what I really like is sitting at my bench, cutting angles onto the ends of the tiny pattern pieces, and getting them all to fit together, with naught but friction holding them in place. It takes focus, the type of focus that liberates you from all your other concerns. There is a rhythm to the process that is almost hypnotic, and you certainly loose yourself in it. The chisel becomes an extension of your hand. What you think, it does. And what it does, you feel. There are times that I feel every fiber as it is cut by the chisel. There is a powerful control in this feeling. There is also a deeper connection to the wood in it. When it is all going just right, a clarity comes to my mind, one in which I understand what I am doing at an intuitive level, and I can make the small adjustments that are sometimes needed without thinking about them, and without trial and error. I make the change and it's spot on. This, I know, is bordering on the rapturous, but this is not what I intend. If I were to describe in philosophical terms, I'd say that its a state in which one's epistemtic, emotional, and tactile connection to the world align, and the boarders between them begin to disappear. There is almost a change in one's ontological status. (Hmmm. Maybe I've had too much rum tonight.)
Here's a few random thoughts:
I love furniture design, and smart techniques. This blog is about both.