New concepts spice up design competition

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New concepts spice up design competition
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There were 75 finalists out of more than 300 entrants for this year's Design Emphasis contest, a woodworking competition held in conjunction with the biennial International Woodworking and Machinery Supply Fair. The pieces, which are in any of six categories, will be judged at IWF 2008, to be held Aug. 20-23 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

The contest was open to any student enrolled in an accredited college or university and in an undergraduate furniture design course. Categories include Seating, Ready to Assemble, Contract, Case Goods, Occasional and Design Creativity. Entries will be judged on design (40 percent); manufacturing capabilities (25 percent); marketability (20 percent); and workmanship (15 percent)

While dozens of schools across the nation had students who entered, Georgia Tech dominated with 17 pieces selected for the finalist round. Alan Harp, furniture design instructor at Georgia Tech, says it's the school's strongest showing to date. The school's Industrial Design department, which has furniture design classes within, began offering the contest to students about six years ago. Participating in the contest has had a tremendous impact on attracting more students to the program, says Harp.

But while having students make the finalist list helps promote any school, Harp agrees the students are the ones whose careers will ultimately benefit.

"It helps them bulk up their resume and their portfolio," says Harp. "It gives them exposure to a greater audience and gets them to where they can see how they stack up against the other really good furniture designers that are also graduating at the same time. They get to examine themselves against their peers in the furniture design arena. It helps them understand what the industry wants to see."

There are some distinguished commonalities between many of this year's finalists. For starters, as emerging designers, they're adamant about not being limited to one particular design style. And naturally, they're determined. Those interviewed for this story say even if they don't win, they're still going to design with the same drive to succeed. Still, all certainly hope judges will take to their creativity like bait.

Robert Wylie
Rockingham Community College,
Wentworth, N.C.
Wylie was selected as a finalist in the Case category. He entered the contest in hopes of gaining more experience in terms of going to trade shows and networking with other woodworkers.

Robert Wylie's modified Hepplewhite-style piece in the construction phase."In the long term, I want to teach high school woodworking. For the short term, I'm looking at building more furniture to get more experience before I go into teaching," says Wylie.

Last year, Wylie was a finalist at the AWFS Fair in Las Vegas, which sponsors another student design competition called Fresh Wood.

His piece for this year's IWF is a modification of a traditional Hepplewhite-style sideboard made of solid mahogany. It is about 6' long with four doors and one drawer. He incorporated modern joinery techniques, such as loose tenon construction, because it was faster.

"I really enjoy working with hand tools, and I knew this would give me the opportunity to do a lot of hand shaping and intricate details; there's a lot of stringing and inlay on the piece. I also wanted the challenge of working with the curves," says Wylie.

"With this piece, I spent more time in the design phase more than anything else. I probably put in 80 hours of drawing and CAD. I knew that I wanted to build a Federal period style sideboard, so I did a lot of research, pulled together a lot of different design styles that I like, then began drawing my piece and doing all the paperwork involved, including estimates on my labor, lumber and all of the other materials."

The most challenging part, he says, was building the coopered doors. He glued about five boards together to form each curve and then smoothed them with hand tools. The piece also features holly and ebony accents, and a good amount of mahogany and sapele.