In our second and third week of the semester Grace Jeffers who manages the student challenge for Wilsonart International came to our class to set the stage for the project. She the history of plastic laminate and it included this industrial short about Ralph Wilson Sr., the founder of Wilsonart International:
Grace also spent time addressing the natural environment of California and the depletion of the state’s forests and habitat. I was startled to find out that California is the second most deforested state in the union and it is recognized as one of 34 global hotspots for its depletion of plant diversity. These are very sobering facts facing anyone who concerned with sustainability.
Grace also pointed out an amazing show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art which is up right now entitled: California Design, 1930 - 1965 “Living the Modern Way”. We are planning a field trip to see the show as a class so there will be a lot more information about this as the semester progresses. The reason for bringing up both of these subjects was twofold:
1. To contextualize where we are located geographically as designers and the legacy of design on the West Coast. This helps to underpin the chair designs and develop a way to talk about the individual work.
2. The students have been challenged this year is to showcase Wilsonart’s wood grain collection of laminate in their designs. The awareness of the natural environment California is famous for will help everyone consider the possibilities inherent in using a material which mimics a natural product.
Grace in her design historian capacity gave an impressive presentation on the history of “fake” which dates back to antiquity. It was enlightening for us to consider how long humans have tried to imitate nature in their pursuit of art and design.
On her second visit Grace gave a presentation on the history of chairs where students were given ninety seconds a slide to sketch 140 different chairs throughout history.
It was a great way to have our students look at the history of an object we are surrounded by while realizing how much modern design mines this history for ideas and forms.