The Bookshelf Chair: A Collaborative Project

Today I want to tell you about one of my first collaborative art projects. In the spring semester of my freshman year of college (2010), I took a 3D Design class. I have to be honest and say that I struggled in this class more than in any other art class I took, but I definitely learned a lot from it. I’m happy to share, however, that the semester ended on a really good note for me.

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The final project for the class was a collaborative chair project. We had to work in groups of three and create a chair out of non-traditional materials. I think we had about 4-5 weeks to complete it. The first part of the assignment was to create three prototypes and my group’s weren’t that great… It wasn’t until we hit up a thrift store in Harrisonburg (one that became a favorite store of mine later on) that we landed on a really good idea. We thought about creating a chair by combining two bookshelves and adding on things you might find on a real bookshelf to create parts like a foot-rest, arms, a back, etc. We did have to clear this idea with our professor since wood is definitely a traditional material for chairs, but the idea itself was non-traditional so she approved. The original sketch was pretty rough, but we eventually came up with a really nice design.

Now that we had a 2D design, it was time to make the actual chair. Here are the supplies we ended up using: 2 identical bookshelves (about 3 feet tall each), lots of old books, and a candle holder that was just for decoration. As freshmen, we didn’t have cars so on one of the trips, we had to walk about a mile from the thrift store to the art studio carrying stacks of dictionaries and other thick books. All I can say is that it felt way longer than a mile.

The actual creation of the chair was the most challenging part. I was lucky to have such hard-working group-mates. I’m not sure how much time we spent working on the chair, but I’m going to attempt to summarize the process. We wanted to create a throne-like chair, which meant we had to deconstruct the bookshelves a little bit. We cut a semicircle into one of the top shelves to create a curved back, got rid of the other top shelf, and attached the two bookshelves together.

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Old dictionaries were arranged to create the seat, back, and armrests. To make the armrests more comfortable, we cut them into a curved shape with a band saw. The dictionary  used for the seat “cushion” was opened up to the page that had the definition for the word “chair.” Clever, right?

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The footrest was created by adjusting one of the shelves to where we were able to slide it in and out easily. We glued the books on that shelf to the wall so that they wouldn’t move when the shelf was pulled out.

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We put a lot of effort into making the chair look as finished as possible. We even painted the visible nails so that they would match the color of the wood. My group was really happy with the result and I was really proud of myself for contributing to such a cool piece of art that was also functional (it was surprisingly comfortable to sit in!). Thanks for reading :]

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