The 9th Chair: Beyond Burnt
This piece was an experimental collaboration between Doug Jones and Carrie Compton. Through experimentation with fire and wood and various finishes, we became inspired by the changes in the characteristics of wood that emerged in the burning process, especially the effects on end grain. We were particularly struck by the beauty of white oak and the emergence of the cellular structure/growth rings that appeared when the cellulose burned and was scrubbed away and the durable lignin remained. Transformations in color, texture, technical properties and working abilities were explored through a repeated process of burning, scouring away the charred cellulose, applying liming wax and rubbing out. Throughout our process and experimentation we were pleased and surprised to discover the
Designing and building this piece was not limited to a collaborative interplay of ideas, experimentation and design viewpoint but also, we realized, it was a collaboration between wood and fire. The simple unadorned chair frame became the canvas for a blend between structure and the organic as the alder frame’s once crisp lines softened in the burning process, showcasing the temper of fire on wood; the wood’s own imperfections blending seamlessly with the refined grace of fine woodworking. The alder’s light tones turned a particularly rich color after the charred blackness was rubbed away and unique organic edges became apparent depending on where the fire caught or burned more deeply. The panels of white oak end grain that make up the seat and back were texturized and softened as well helping to integrate them well with the form of the frame.
This project was a successful blend of the technical and intuitive natures of woodworking using common species in unexpected and unconventional ways, to be experienced against a backdrop of a simple chair form. The elemental “treeness” of growth rings transformed into a refined seat with a strong visual and textural statement. Gridlines appeared along the glued end grain of the panels as flame dried and scoured the surface, creating an overlaid pattern that enhances the natural geometry and characteristics of wood. The pattern and texture of wood replaces the pattern and texture of a more traditional upholstered back and seat. We feel that the 21st century will be about making the most of precious limited resources and that creatively approaching common woods and materials leads to good, sustainable design. We hope that a sitter will be intrigued by the surfaces and processes represented in this chair and be inspired that common woods can be transformed by thoughtful design.
-Doug Jones and Carrie Compton, July 3, 2015