Cranbrook Academy of Art
An informal and playful object that showcases a true research material.
The combination of these two forms is reminiscent of the organic and mineral and gives it a sculptural appearance.
The integration of the application must be considered in a more ergonomic way for back comfort.
The Rocking Lump is no ordinary cardboard chair. This project is my largest experiment with cardboard pulp to date. My goal was to create a chair that had a small ecological footprint and could double as both a rocking chair and an adult-sized rocking horse. This object is designed for enjoyment and play. Rocking Lump is designed for two primary sitting positions. In one, the user can lounge on the form, using the "handle" as a backrest. In the other position, the user rides the form as a rocking horse. Most importantly, this object showcases handmade construction.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
I am interested in facilitating play for people both young and old. However, I am concerned with how play furniture has traditionally been manufactured and it's impact on the environment. The Rocking Lump was a self-initiated project with which I aimed to address some of these concerns and create a playful piece of furniture. I began working with cardboard pulp in late 2012, using it as a material for several designs for children's rocking horses. I was intrigued by this material and found several of its characteristics to be useful in furniture design. Cardboard pulp can be manipulated by hand, yet it can dry as hard as a rock. It can be sculpted into freeform shapes or pressed into a rigid sheet-good. It is a lightweight material that will also biodegrade. Considering these attributes and some of my previous experiments, I challenged myself to create an adult-sized piece of furniture with the pulp. I was also working out ideas about multi-functional pieces of furniture with this piece. I am interested about how people use the domestic interior for fun and play. The Rocking Lump was designed to be both a rocking lounge chair as well as an adult rocking horse for this reason. I wanted to directly address my interest by devising this duality. It was critical that chair worked as both a chair people would enjoy sitting in and rocking horse an adult wouldn't be too shy about using!3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
My point of view regarding the Rocking Lump evolved through the making of it. This project began as a self-initiated technical brief. I wanted to push the cardboard material to a physical extreme to see if I could maintain control over it. I had other conceptual goals for the project, but I was essentially creating a huge version of a smaller child-sized rocker that I had designed and built a few weeks earlier. The labor intensive nature of building up the form with the paper pulp gave me ample time to question the process and my original intent. My conclusion was that the project was absurd and quixotic and that had to be it's power. The piece has a sense of humor that expresses itself through its scale, its material and its function. These critical elements were already in place during its making. My role as the designer was to ensure that this chair could accomplish essential needs for the user, namely that it could support an adult's weight, that it could comfortably rock, and that it would accommodate an adult user in both positions. A critical piece of this chair's program evolved during its construction. My original intention was to simply create handlebars that could double as a backrest. As I worked on the form, however, I realized that this object could be even more interesting if a user had a choice of interfaces. Using a single collet as this point of interface, the user could customize this blob-ject.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
The rigor of this project was definitely in material exploration. Its form was established early on in the design process, evolving from several small models and child-sized projects that I had made earlier in 2012. The challenge of the Rocking Lump was to translate the cardboard pulp material to an adult-sized scale. I wondered how I could achieve gravity-defying curves on the form by exploiting paper pulp's natural quality of self-adherance. My challenge was to engineer and construct the form in such a way that it would be a super strong piece of furniture and appear virtually seamless and impervious. The construction of the handle/backrest also gave me an opportunity to play with previously untested woodworking techniques. The handle/backrest was critical to make this chair function as a dual position chair. I enthusiastically shaped and engineered the handle/backrest to a comfortable proportion and curve. The Rocking Lump was designed as an artistic one-off and was not intended as a proposal for mass production. The object emphasizes texture, craft and handmade construction. Its audience would ideally be advocates of critical or polemic design. The design of the Rocking Lump embraces a language of absurdity and humor. A great sense of humor is key to appreciating the merits of this piece.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
The Rocking Lump has great value to the world. First and foremost, it can make you laugh. The experience of sitting or rocking on the chair is surprising, exciting and fun! Its a social conversation piece, a unique one-off piece of furniture that points to new uses of materials and evolving furniture typologies. The chair is a sensory, maintaining the tactility and smell of paper. The phenomenology of the chair is unique and unexpected. The Rocking Lump has the comfort of most chairs with the added enjoyment of play and interaction. Aesthetically, this chair makes a strong but simple statement. It embraces a recognizable aesthetic language of "green" design, but the scale is distinctly different. The Rocking Lump is also an exercise in sustainable design, utilizing recyclable materials for its construction. This chair is almost 100% biodegradable, save for a single rubber collet. The reuse and transformation of recyclable materials is at the core of this chair's program. The Rocking Lump is essentially a straightforward and honest material proposal. It recognizes that disposability is a post-consumer issue that must be addressed in regards to preserving our environment. Rocking Lump is simply a material suggestion of how issue of consumption could be addressed in our present and future age.