Winged Chairs

My son is going to a very nice college north of here and as I was visiting campus a couple of weeks back, he took me into his art classroom.  He has never been very arts and craftsy…  his creative talents run towards music, writing and performance.  All endeavors I am most fond of, but taking an actual art class (for fun) has swollen this mother’s heart a bit!  He showed me his portfolio, current works in progress and we began to bounce ideas back and forth regarding his upcoming final project. In the center of the room, inside a ring of drawing benches, was a solitary chair.

I was explaining the concept of  “from the ridiculous to the sublime”  in reference to a juxtapositioning of everyday objects to achieve an alternate purpose and theme when I gestured to the chair.   “What about chairs with wings?”  This idea literally popped into my head and out my mouth before I was even aware of it.

He laughed, “What would a chair need wings for?”

And that’s when it hit me… that was exactly the big question.  Why would a chair need wings?  So many reasons… everyone can think about and ponder that for themselves.  It doesn’t even matter what your answer is… it’s subjective and important to you.  It’s really the question that’s brilliant!  Just think about that for a minute.  Why would a chair need wings?

He decided to table that project and go in a different direction, but I couldn’t shake the idea.  I rolled it over and decided I had to build one of these winged chairs.  I really got jazzed up when we visited a local Goodwill store and I scored an old style school chair for $7.  Just the thing that needed wings. When I got home, I sketched out some ideas.

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Ideas emerge.

Then I did a little image Googling.  Did someone else think of this before me?  Am I jumping on some old bandwagon that I knew nothing about… was there a line of winged chairs somewhere that my subconscious dredged up and presented to me as if I had come up with this cool and unknowingly unoriginal idea?  And surprisingly enough… the answer is that there is not much of a bandwagon at all.  I found an art installation in Europe that featured a wall mounted winged chair and another diaphanous Swedish example.  Neither of which I would have seen without a Google search.  And then there were the Shabby Chic-ers whose lacey old time decorating concepts sometimes attach dime store kiddy wings to dressing room chairs.  (gak!)  I didn’t see any Egyptian chairs in my image search, but it did occur to me that somewhere along the history of man, some ancient race may have winged-up a chair.  Those ancients, weren’t they just always putting wings on things?  Shoes, sandals, cats?

So I looked again… and it seems I was right about those Egyptian revivalist chair makers!

 

So while my chair may not be the first, this idea is not currently saturating the consciousness of mankind.  Good enough for me! It actually never occurred to me to do anything less than build these puppies… I really could have just started a painting series, but that’s the direction the idea took.  And it took off.  I just tried to stay out of the way.  I knew I had to build the base out of wood and use heavy fabrics for the feathers.  I swear, I never saw the ironic connection between furniture and feathers made out of upholstery fabric.  It was later, as I was contemplating making a cushion for the chair out of left overs that the connection was made.  Wish I could claim I did it on purpose!  This is what I mean when I say I just get out of the way of these ideas.  They have a life of their own.

 

I bought some thin plywood to make a frame, then drove to a local fabric store.  Econo Sales is a cornucopia of upholstery fabrics and then some.  Need cushions for your boat?   A new awning for your porch?  That’s the place to go.  I probably touched hundreds of bolts of cloth, piling them up on the large table trying to build a palette of colors.  I had no idea which way my hue grouping was going… it just happened and I let it.

Oh so many pretty fabrics!

Oh so many pretty fabrics! You can find them on Facebook under Econo Sales

  Some of the fabrics I bought by the yard, some by the inch.  When it came to the bottom line dollar sign, I did exercise some control over that muse!  I was not about to spend a ton of cash on this project when I didn’t even quite know what I was in for.  I did spring for a very expensive ($25) can of contact cement thinking that permanence in an art project was a good idea and Elmers wasn’t going to cut it.  The cement is a horrific toxic blend of chemicals that will absolutely kill experimental rats just by walking near the can.  It should provide all the hold I need, right?  And kill a few brain cells while it does it’s job. Home with my treasure trove of supplies, I snip off bits of fabric and build a model.
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So lovely… hard to figure out where to start!

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Model wing tests out fabric placement as well as providing me with a taste of fumes to come.

This is when I first notice two things about the cement.  Unless the fabric is coated on one side, it disappears into the material as if it was the answer to a 1000 year drought.  Sucked up and gone.  You are supposed to coat both surfaces where they attach together, let dry for 10 minutes, no more nor less.  The timing here is tricky.  And then there’s the noxious fumes.  Did I mention the dead rats?  I had to work with an open door, open windows with the ceiling fan going and I still couldn’t stay in there more than 15 minutes.  It was going to take me forever.  And kill my muse with meticulous timing.  If the miasma didn’t get to her first.

I am not yet deterred however!  Hope springs eternal!  What’s a few brain cells when it comes to ART??!!  Pish posh, causes cancer, banned in California?  I turn my sights to more important matters.  Getting my jigsaw on the plywood.  Draw one wing, cut it out.

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Sketch is ready for the saw!

Now I am ready to head into the studio where the cement awaits my sacrifice.

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Wings are taking a trial flight on the chair.

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Silver paint to bind the edges. Tidies up any rough bits I missed when sanding.

After the silver edging,  I apply the first layer of fabric which happens to be oilcloth.

Cement goes on both surfaces, I let it dry a bit, then ease the fabric on and use a brayer to roll it all out smoothly.  All goes well.  The oil cloth likes the cement.

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Note brayer in pic.

 

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Once applied, I turn over the wing to cut off excess fabric.

It takes me days to get to this point because of the fumes… I can’t work on gluing for more than 15 minutes at a time.  I do lots of cutting and trimming and save all the glueing for the end but the process is painstakingly slow.  I begin to curse the muse who got me into this mess to begin with.  And still I press on… literally.  Until the cement does the unthinkable. When I get to my next layers of fabric we experience an epic fail.   The cement begins to ruin the work.  It discolors some of the fabrics and creates adhesion problems with others.  Feathers peel off like a bad sunburn.

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Note the discolored brocade! Damn glue!

Sigh.  I close up shop and ride my horse.  No better stress release and she doesn’t care about art one bit.

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Cricket and our view! A life saver.

 

Next post:  The Solution presents itself.