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Stool of Thought

It’s not uncommon for men and women to look back into the past of their given professions. Lawyers look to prior precedents, doctors examine medical journals, and businessmen analyze successful case-studies. I’m certainly not a doctor, nor a lawyer, and I would consider myself an amateur businessman at best.

The truth is, I studied advertising at my alma mater. Don Draper, coincidentally, had just begun his tenure on cable TV. So even before graduation, things looked promising. I soon realized, however, that the floor-to-ceiling windows, designer furniture, and beautiful secretaries I was used to seeing in the halls of Madison Avenue were just a metaphor for the hum of fluorescent lights, beige padded cubicles, and co-workers microwaving broccoli for lunch. The camera really does add 10 pounds of BS.

So after some arm twisting, I decided to move on. Not because I don’t love good advertising—I do. But I hate bad advertising. Perhaps it was this paradox I couldn’t stomach. The best ads and ideas are typically hidden from the public—accessible only in yearly award show publications. While the worst fare is fed to us by advertisers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Instead, I became obsessed with the idea of doing the work I wanted to do without the input or constraints given by clients. But as it turned out, that business strategy was also a piece of Hollywood fiction. I told you I was an amateur. There is always a client. So now, I hope to simply be considered a good designer—finding the balance between what I want, or what I think others want, and what others actually need.

For the past few years, I’ve chosen to work with wood—a craft with a rich history indeed. As I’ve looked to the past of this trade, I’ve become enamored with traditional Japanese carpentry techniques and philosophy.

The Japanese believe a tree acts as a link between the heavens above and the earth below. They have a spirit and one can give it a second-life as a piece of furniture. Care must be taken, however, not to work against nature. This often means meticulous attention to details such as simplicity, waste-reduction, growth direction, and joinery.

In that spirit, we designed the Kyoto stool. A large piece of lumber is dissected, hand-planed, and shaped into the individual pieces of the stool. Two dovetail keys hold the bookmatched (mirrored pieces) seat together atop a branching base. Once assembled, the stool relies on the end user for added stability—it’s that idea of nature and man working together.

So it seems that by looking to the past that we find roads to the future. Or maybe I’m just a mad man.

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