Inflatable Vinyl Chair
With a partner, undertake the design, prototype, and fabrication of full-size inflatable seating furniture in 3.5mil vinyl with heat-sealed seams to be entered into
Employ precise analog manipulation of 2D-to-3D surfaces to unify representational and material logics. In collaboration with Maya Byrd.
The studio brief focused on volumetric relationships in the human body and material composition. A three-dimensional amalgam was sculpted from our readymade objects: dryer vent tubing.
Deriving a physical form from a prompt made of words is the most difficult part of starting any project, especially when the deliverable is to be more sculptural than functional. With this in mind, we selected a more tangible formal starting point: the human body.
Prompted to examine the relationships between different body positions, we created two multimedia studies using photographs and simple vector drawings.
Maya appropriated vitruvian-man-style graphics and overlaid them on images of yoga poses to create a sundial-style progression in which the body creates novel shapes. I used multiple-exposure photography to capture the movement and interactions of three different models before deriving line drawings from each stack of images.
These 2D representations of 3D forms helped us bridge the gap between butt and chair, as it were, creating a relationship between the project and the people. Given the chance, I would more aggressively recombine multiple human figures to create a dynamic scene and extract 3D components from this study to more accurately re-create body-ish elements in vinyl.
Because vinyl is expensive and difficult to work with, the majority of our work was experimental and used non-precious materials. Furthermore, an iterative, rather than direct, design process was used wherein each model’s form was “cast” to create the next. Each successive prototype was required to be derived from the previous model, which created an emphasis on material logics and discouraged conscious intervention (I suspect the studio was structured in this way to discourage the creation of traditional chair-forms).
We rapidly sculpted a small clay figure, hoping to capture cues from the form-analysis collages in 3D space. The object combined two masses twisted to create an impression of repose. The sculpture was then fired and 3D-scanned to create additional collages.
Armed with this primitive, we were asked to select a readymade object which could be aggregated and massed to re-interpret the primitive through the material logic of said object. After some experiments with plastic flower-pots, we found some flexible dryer ducting in the garbage. The tubing is a spiral of wire wrapped in reflective plastic and lends itself well to twisting and morphing. Small studies let us become familiar with the material and relate it to our figure studies.
The clay figure acted as a tactile and gestural guide to create a scaled-up version thereof with the ducting. Because of the material and size change, the resultant model introduces new logics while reducing the resolution of other elements. Settling on an acceptable compromise between these artistic motivations proved to be the most difficult part of this exercise.
As we built up the tubing new shapes and surfaces revealed themselves. Doing our best to “think with our hands” at this stage, minimal consideration was given to the vinyl construction.
Next, a paper model was required to extract a net or surface-map of the found object model. Using butcher paper and tape, the entire model was wrapped in a blanket of white which was creased and crinkled over the tubing beneath.
One effect of this approach was a decrease in definition of the form itself, but the brief requested that we focus on surface and material rather than volume at this stage.
Cutting the paper into sections and flattening it created an “unrolled” version of the model, which could, in theory, be stitched back together and filled to create a skin-only version of our form. In practice, it was extremely difficult to capture concave shapes with paper and thus a vaguely model-shaped balloon resulted.
Of course, vinyl is much more flexible than paper, so this exercise brought several challenges to our attention. When inflated, equal pressure is applied to all points on the surface a given object, so concave areas must be retained from inside the bladder. Furthermore, multiple nets with many cuts and folds would be needed to create any non-primitive shapes in vinyl. Finally, our greatest formal challenge lay in capturing the twist of our primitive.