A handmade wooden chair not only demonstrates the beauty of the wood, but through stylistic choices also reveals the cultural influences and elements behind it. "Painful" doesn't mean that you feel painful when sitting in this chair. Instead, "painful" refers to the material language of this traditional "Ming" chair—the inspiration behind the chair, Chinese acupuncture, is translated into the form through the 800 hammered wood nails that make up the seat of the furniture piece.
Sean Zhang, designer
Through this design, I would like to demonstrate that our traditional designs and manufacturing techniques are gradually fading away. These traditions are at the essence of human civilization, and yet we are slowly losing and destroying them. Successive loss of these traditions can be found in China, Italy and the rest of the world.
The protrusions on the chair surface were inspired by Chinese acupuncture. I tried my best to find out the characteristics of wood, techniques of making wood chairs and the ways to connect pieces and build chair shapes. When working on it, I didn't draw many sketches. Instead, I measured the 3D spatial proportion and structure by my hands before starting to make the chair. Interestingly, I used the modern equipment in the lab to make the wooden chair with Chinese traditional chair making techniques.
Inspired by needle formations found in Chinese acupuncture, at first I tried the effect of equidistance and equal size (like a grid), and then gradually changed the size of the wooden needles from the middle to the periphery, which had a clearly dynamic visual effect. However, the gradient effect of length and height in the vertical direction is what made for the most visual impact in the overall look of the chair.
As shown in the picture above, to enable the chair to have better bearing capacity, all the wooden needles do not penetrate the surface of chair directly, but 0.8 cm into both upper and lower surfaces of the chair, respectively, give you the illusion that wooden needles penetrate the chair.
This piece was my first attempt at making an entire chair with my hands. Though it was a great challenge (even my tutor suggested I attempt to create a more simple form), I still chose to complete it as per the original plan. Fortunately, I encountered no errors during the process of fabrication, and I was glad to have the theme of "pain of culture" represented by this simplified and exquisite chair inspired by furniture from the Ming dynasty. I hope the visual form also translates to show the painstaking work that goes into thoughtful craftsmanship. Hopefully it can veer people's attention toward the beauty of traditional culture and craftsmanship.
Sora studio was created by Sean Zhang and Rui Li in 2014, based in the UnitedStates with a focus on Interior/Product/Furniture/Graphic design.
Our studio's contacting email is: firstname.lastname@example.org