Copeland's Usonian Furniture

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Rood
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Post by Rood »

SDR wrote:Ah -- I had forgotten about "Taliesin East." Thank you. Here are the photos from my file; it's unclear from them if the pieces you mention are included.



The hassocks are rather diminutive pieces, but they are illustrated in two of your photos. In the photo on the upper left they are lined up beneath the Georgia O'Keefe painting. Two hassocks can be seen in the lower photo ... directly beneath the photo of Mr. Wright's mother.

PrairieMod
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Post by PrairieMod »

Here's a page (with "Taliesin East" moniker referenced) and a different image from Jane King Hession's book "Frank Lloyd Wright in New York: The Plaza Years 1954-1959"

Image

Image

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

The obvious terminology should be Taliesin (Wisc.), Taliesin West and Plaza Suite, to avoid confusion. I cannot imagine Olga had anything to do with outfitting the hotel suite. FLW admired Henry Janeway Haredenburgh, architect of the Plaza (plus the Dakota Apartment Building, the original Waldorf and Astoria hotels, and Boston's Copely Plaza Hotel), perhaps in part because he was not a college-bred architect, like himself. I suspect FLW had enough respect for the Plaza, where he was known to take people on tour to point out HJH's fine detailing, not to do anything too dramatic to make it over into something of his own.

peterm
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Post by peterm »

Back to the Copeland produced Wright inspired pieces...

It's one thing to use solid wood as opposed to plywood, but to make the decision to show end grain is simply beyond me. I can't recall ever seeing this done in a Usonian piece. Notice the edge in this photo; it creates the appearance of a butcher block top:

http://www.copelandfurniture.com/enlarge.php?id=434

DavidC
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Post by DavidC »

Oh, yeah. If you zoom in on the picture Peter has linked to - you get the full bad view.

Why go to all this trouble (not to mention expense), and then make the piece look like it came out of Woodshop 101?


David

Deke
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Post by Deke »

I think Wright typically trimmed his furniture with an edge...often a thicker edge than the field board so it appeared the whole top was thicker. He did not trim some furniture made of plywood and seemed to like the look of those edge ply-stripes.

Deke

SDR
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Post by SDR »

One man's crudity is another's "honesty." Exposed end grain may not have been a part of Wright's vocabulary, but it has the oldest history in all of woodworking -- self-evidently. Ask George Nakashima (for instance) to veneer or miter the ends of his magnificent tables . . . !

But that's beside the point of these new tables; their design was clearly predicated upon the availability of a relatively new material in mid-century, namely plywood (another misunderstood wood product or technique, in some circles) -- and thus it's troubling to see these designs re-imagined -- I suppose.

SDR

It could be noted that, while the horizontal planes of these tables were designed for plywood, the same cannot (probably) be said for the vertical elements -- the legs. And there, Wright exposes the end of the part at the top of the table -- a move that clearly could have been avoided if the exposure of wood end grain were an issue for him . . . ?

DRN
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Post by DRN »

SDR wrote:
One man's crudity is another's "honesty." Exposed end grain may not have been a part of Wright's vocabulary, but it has the oldest history in all of woodworking -- self-evidently. Ask George Nakashima (for instance) to veneer or miter the ends of his magnificent tables . . . !
What is it about the design and craft of a Nakashima piece that an end grain is acceptable/expected/celebrated, where on a Wright piece it is virtually unheard of? Nakashima's work has always drawn me in to the point that I wax poetic and get gooey...more so than Wright's pieces with the possible exception of the Mori chair. Nakashima furniture is at once rustic but still highly refined. Wright furniture is either highly refined or almost crude as at Sweeton...but always well proportioned and geometrically interesting. Not sure where I'm going with this, but a comparison of Wright and Nakashima seems at once appropriate and not...Nakashima's work looks great in Wright spaces (the Sweeton's had one of his chairs in the 1960's with a single wide slab arm). Nakashima's "Greenrock Ottoman" is a piece that would look particularly at home in a Usonian:

http://www.skinnerinc.com/asp/fullCatal ... o=++754150
Last edited by DRN on Tue Dec 27, 2011 2:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

SDR, plywood was not "a relatively new material in mid-century." It was invented in Egypt around 3500 BC, and "re-invented" by Alfred Nobel's father in the 19th century.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

As I understand it, plywood as a widely available manufactured material was a novelty to the building trades in the 'thirties. Is that not true ? Aalto, Eames, and others were part of the first generation of designers to employ exposed and formed veneer construction., a sophisticated improvement upon the steam-bent woodwork of Thonet et al.


The difference between an early Wright dining table and a Nakashima one would be quite remarkable, while a Usonian-era Wright table would be somewhat closer to the Nakashima. The early Wright would be a highly-wrought assemblage of planes both large and small, including pencil moldings wrapped around chunky legs, everything strictly orthogonal (parts arranged at right angles to each other) and most of the material assembled in such a way as to minimize any distinction between solid stock and veneer. The later Wright table might be a simple arrangement of planes, everything made of 3/4" plywood or solid stock of the same thickness, the plywood edges sometimes exposed, and some angular elements included, at least in plan.

The Nakashima example, by contrast, makes use of a simple thick slab of hardwood, its shape reflecting the irregular section of the tree from which it was cut. Edges of this slab are invariably seen for what they are, the waney long edges revealing the angle at which the saw passed through the bole while the end cuts frankly expose the cross-section of that great piece of wood. Veneer of any kind would be out of place in this assemblage. The table top is supported on turned legs or on a construction of round and/or square-section pieces of unstained wood.

SDR

peterm
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Post by peterm »

Part of the design of the square Mossberg table, it would seem to me, is that there is no front or back, and that the only variable is the direction of the grain. Depending on one's mood, the grain could face any direction. Looking at the Copeland table, there will always be one "undesirable" orientation, that of the end grain. Nakashima, on the other hand, when choosing to expose the end grain, does it on the narrow end of a long slab, with a confidence and deliberateness, as can be seen on the desk below. But also notice his other approach of concealing the end grain on the coffee table:

http://www.ajchen.com/2010/12/31/george-nakashima/

http://www.copelandfurniture.com/enlarge.php?id=434

To me, the aesthetic choice of showing the end grain on the Copeland table, no matter how "honest" it may be in theory, is simply ugly and somewhat thoughtless, and takes a liberty which has no precedent in Wright's work.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Another way to express it would be that he has no choice about where end grain will show -- it's inherent in the slab of wood that it will appear on the short ends only !

The trim at the ends of that coffee table serve another purpose besides covering end grain (which, I maintain, Nakashima doesn't see as a flaw): they help stabilize the thinner wood he uses here, against possible warping.

Why would we accept the edge of plywood -- either edge -- and not the end of a solid piece of wood ? A well-sanded end of a hardwood plank is more polished than any other face of that same piece, by the nature of the material. End grain is what provides a true butcher's block with its resistance to the shredding and shedding of fibers. End grain gets an undeserved bad rap -- begun who knows how . . .

SDR

peterm
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Post by peterm »

My complaint is not with exposing end grain as a concept, rather the choice of using it on these particular pieces of furniture. Nakashima's craftsmanship and artistry are beyond reproach.

Unfortunately, I fail to see that artistry in the Copeland pieces, even if they might be well crafted.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

I would be more troubled if the solid wood had veneer pasted over the ends of the slabs. That would be wrong for two reasons: The wood wants to expand and contract a bit across its width, depending on atmospheric and other conditions -- and the viewer would then have no easy way of telling what material was used in the table, which I believe is a mistake.

To my eye and mind, the conundrum you mentioned, namely the necessary choice of grain direction in an otherwise quadrilaterally symmetrical object, is no worse or better whether the material be plywood or solid material. Yes, the edges appear different in one case and not in the other -- but I maintain that that difference is perfectly in keeping, in each case, with the material employed, and I wouldn't have it otherwise.

Not to beat the matter into the ground utterly, of course . . . ! And I remain disappointed that these table designs have been rendered in a material not original to their conception. Upon that we seem to agree ?

SDR

peterm
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Post by peterm »

Why not just make it the way Wright designed it?

Plywood, with solid wood edges?

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