Isamu Noguchi – Japanese Furniture Designer

Posted on 11th October 2011 in Furniture Designers, Japanese Designers
Red Cube by Isamu Noguchi

Red Cube by Isamu Noguchi

Producing some of the most influential modern furniture designs and modern sculptural pieces in landscape architecture, Isamu Noguchi was born in Los Angeles to Yone Noguchi, a Japanese poet and Léonie Gilmour, an American writer. While his parents never married or remained living together, when Léonie brought Isamu to Japan, he was properly given the name “Isamu” which means courage.  In 1912, with his half-sister born, the mother decided to build a house that Isamu was given charge of, designing the garden and learning carpentry skills.

At the age of fourteen, he was sent back to the U.S. to attend school living with Dr. Edward Rumley throughout high school. Known as Sam Gilmour during this time, he wanted to pursue a career as an artist but Rumley thought him better suited to be a doctor. While his first exposure to working as a sculptor did not progress as hoped and he briefly considered a career in the medical field, others around him influenced him including his mother who encouraged him to follow his love of art. Taking night classes at the Leonard da Vinci Art School, he found acceptance of his talent and particularly his portrait busts whose commissions helped him financially.

Receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship, he traveled to Paris to study stone and wood cutting. There he met Constantin Brancusi who greatly influenced him and took him in as an assistant for seven months. Staying longer than intended as Asia was to be a part of his travels as well, he returned to New York in 1929. During this time he continued to create bust portraits studying various art mediums around the world.

While initially rejected for large public work art pieces through the Public Works of Art program, he produced Relief Seen from the Sky through the Federal Art Project. Traveling to Mexico, he signed a 20 meter mural entitled History as Seen from Mexico in 1936.

Returning to the U.S., with mixed success in his public art works, he survived through the anti-Japanese sentiment during the war to eventually end up in New York. Designing sculptural interlocking slabs using mixed media , the best known ‘Kouros’ in 1946, he befriended Herman Miller whose company produced an icon of modern furniture, the   Noguchi table known for its ingenius use of materials and connections. Knoll, a furniture manufacturer also produced additional pieces of Isamu’s furniture as well as lamps.

By this time he was sought after for public art pieces as well as producing set design for Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham. Winning many awards near the end of his life, he died in 1988 at 84 years old well known as a prolific sculptor.

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Baroque furniture design influenced by the Roman Church

Baroque designBaroque design was an offshoot of the Roman Catholic influence in Italy in the 18th Century. Over the previous 200 years, more and more new churches began to be built across Italy, with over 300 in Rome by the mid 1700s. It was through the use of modern design and furniture accents, from gilded statues to ornately carved tables that the Roman church gained influence.

The larger a church building was, the more likely it was to have extensive carvings and rich gilded walls with lush fabrics adorning the pews. Paintings were large with ostentatious frames surrounding them. The more ornately designed a church was, the more popular it became.

This led to a trend of luxurious furnishings taking over the homes of the elite. Families who were connected to the church were the leaders of a trend that brought in a rich, Baroque setting for the home. Chairs were lined with rich, custom carvings, ebony, stone, jewels and more for additional flair. Homes became in competition with each other to see who could create a more elaborate home.

Early on, Pietro da Cortona was a student in what was known as High Baroque. Cortona, also known as Pietro Berrettini, was born in Cortona and quickly came to the attention of the papacy in Italy where he began working on major commissions of paintings inside the churches. He was only one of many early painters, sculpturers and designers who influenced the way Baroque designs influenced the rich and poor alike.

And it was the art that influenced the design of Baroque furniture in the 17th century. Cabinets, cupboards, bed posts and other wood furniture has large bulky twisted columns and rich carvings and mouldings in the interior design.  Baroque was an offshoot of a large Asian influence on design and the Oriental influence led to the deep ornamentation and design of modern Italian furniture.

These large, grand and overly ornate designs were popular for the nobles, and were influenced by the Renaissance Age and various intricate etchings and design techniques embellished furniture. Tables with gilded carved bases became popular. Even tables with slim lined legs had rich carvings or etchings shaping the way the furniture reflected its Baroque influence. Under Louis XIV, Baroque became extremely popular and was later phased out under Louis XVI when a less ornate style came into play as the peasants and the lower class became wearier of the ornate and rich influences in modern design. Functionality came back in the late 1800s as the Industrial Revolution began and design began to change again.

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Isamu Noguchi – Japanese furniture designer

Posted on 16th March 2011 in Furniture Designers, Japanese Designers

Freely expressing his creativity through the essence of clay, wood and stone, Isamu Noguchi was known as a highly prolific sculptor who was able to bridge the East and the West interjecting his own understanding of social awareness.

Born to Yone Noguchi, a Japanese poet and Leonie Gilmour, an American writer who also edited much of Yone’s work on November 17, 1904 in Los Angeles, his young life was not settled with his parents moving to Japan and then separating in 1906. His father remarried while his mother sent him to Japanese and Jesuit schools. In 1918 his mother sent him to the United States to attend Interlaken School in Rolling Prairie, Indiana living with the family of a Swedenborgian minister.

While he attended this school he was informed by the director that he would never be a sculptor. Soon after, Noguchi left to enroll as a pre-medical student at Columbia University. Expressing his continued interest in sculpting and with his mother’s encouragement, he enrolled at the Leonard da Vinci Art School. This time his skill as a sculptor was recognized with the director going so far as to say that the new Michelangelo had appeared.

He received a Guggenheim Fellowship, which allowed him to travel to Paris and work for Brancusi. Here his work was simple and curvilinear incorporating irregular shapes that expressed the void. Learning respect for tools and a particular sensitivity for materials which he would continue throughout his artistic career, he learned how to “live for the moment” expressed through his art.

Continuously restless and striving for perfection in his work, he travelled back to New York making a living doing portrait busts which he would intermittently rely on in throughout his entire life as a way of supporting himself.  Here he met Buckminster Fuller with whom he collaborated on several projects including the modeling of Fuller’s Dymaxion car. His work, not always well understood or accepted, would be influenced by his own self-directed learning and constant travel between the East and the West. He would return to Paris again and then to Beijing where he studied calligraphy and brush drawing.

It was when he returned to Japan that he realized that land could be sculpted as well as a means to deal with and express social concerns. Mexico City hired him to produce a 20-meter-long History as Seen from Mexico in 1936 which featured a Nazi swastika, a hammer and a sickle.

Returning to New York in 1937, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he voluntarily lived in an internment camp on an Indian reservation in Poston, Arizona. His vision was to design parks and recreational areas within the camp however, when he realized that the WRA authorities had no intent of implementing them, he decided to leave to return to New York.

Here his work took an abstract, surrealist influence and created a series of biomorphic sculptures made of interlocking slabs. The power and the expression of essence captured the attention of Martha Graham, John Cage and Merce Cunningham; well known choreographers and music producers. Martha Graham particularly liked his raw sculptors because they were powerful and unadorned with meaningless decoration, similarly expressive of her dance.

In 1948, he applied for a Bollingen Fellowship to travel the world proposing to study public space as research for a book about the “environment of leisure”.

He died on December 30, 1988 at the age of 1984. He left behind a legacy of work that in his obituary in the New York Times called him “AS versatile and prolific sculptor whose earthy stones and meditative gardens bridging East and West have become landmarks on 20th-century art.” The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, originally funded by Noguchi himself, serves as Noguchi’s official Estate. Noguchi the furniture designer also has a modern coffee table his is famous for as well.

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Top international furniture designers

When exploring the world of furniture designers, it is obvious that there are some really famous furniture designers.

One of the top furniture designers is Marco Zanuso who is well known for his work in designing the “Lady” chair. This modern chair was popular in the fifties and Zanuso was one of the Italian furniture designers behind this latex foam product.  Another well known modern furniture designer was Carlo Mollino, a top Italian furniture designer who was known for his fast lifestyle but exquisite architectural renderings and furniture designs.

Mollino created unique pieces, usually as a one-time project, but his elongated shapes and play with form have impacted design worldwide. Mollino did not mass-produce his designs, which have created a sensation of being one of the top furniture designers in the world, with price tags in the several millions on his furniture designs at famous auction houses like Christie’s.

Around the world, while Zanuso and Mollino were becoming famous furniture designers, other furniture designers were being equally as creative and working to transform the world of modern furniture designs from big, bulky and heavy to light, airy with movement and form.

Isamu Noguchi is one of the top Japanese furniture designers that had an impact worldwide. His infamous Noguchi coffee table is still produced today and the table’s elegant form, function and durability is what keeps Noguchi as one of the world’s most famous furniture designers today.

These furniture designers have impacted modern and contemporary furniture designers. What makes a modern and contemporary design?

Like Mollino, Zanuso and Noguchi, creating modern furniture pieces relies on using new available materials and manufacturing techniques to create affordable modern furniture designs. Today’s contemporary designers are still using these famous furniture designers creations as a basis for some of their own furniture designs.

Top furniture designers today look to the best Italian furniture designers and Japanese furniture designers for inspiration. Japanese design influences fill homes with their Zen like furniture design that focuses on space and form. By looking at these furniture designers, we see a rich history of creativity that still flourishes in modern furniture designers today.

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Japanese furniture designs

Posted on 12th February 2011 in Furniture Designers, Japanese Designers
Zen perspective bed

Zen perspective bed

Western interest in Japanese furniture designs drastically increased once Japan opened its trade borders in the 19th century. The desire to create a simplistic, relaxing home environment surrounds the entire concept of Japanese home and interior design.

The Japanese use the concept of “ma,” the distance or space between two objects as the core of their designs. Ma is also described as a consciousness that imparts a feeling or particular sense on a person entering a room.

Contemporary furniture designers in Japan use ma to design a room. When a piece of furniture such as a chair, sofa or bed, is placed in a room, a Japanese furniture designer will focus on the space around the item to create the ambiance for the room. This technique is particularly useful in Zen furniture design where simplicity and technology meet art and function. Continue reading “Japanese furniture designs” »

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