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Customizing and Custom Work

Designing the Heflin Barstool

We design a chair or, in this illustrated case, a barstool by working from human topography to wood sculpture.

We begin by building a fitting booth and hanging a seat and back in it at locations reasonable to common sense.  We ask people to sit and comment.  For the Heflin Barstool’s first "sitting," we had the help of 30–35 people:  friends, family, and guests to the showroom.

Heflin Bar Stool fitting booth   Austin Weeks sitting in fitting booth
Fitting Booth   Austin Sitting

Guided by the comments of the sitters, we adjust the pitches, angles, and dimensions and fill in the curves and contours.  Once a mean has manifested, we project the principle points to the side, back, and bottom of the booth and plot them on the drawing board.  On the drawing board, the points are the givens — not the solution.  Art provides a form to test.

projecting points in the fitting booth   Gary at the drawing board
Projecting Points   Gary at the Drawing Board

From the drawing, we build a prototype.  We work on the sculpture by experimenting with the profiles revealed by three dimensions.

first prototype   fitting spindle
First Prototype   Fitting Spindle

Enough people come through the shop (delivering, shopping, visiting, dropping off kids . . .) to test a prototype as it sits around for a while and gets taken home for testing its intended use. The prototype "wears in" and discloses its strengths and weaknesses.  Developing the Weeks Rocker required building two prototypes.  The Wilson dining chair took two prototypes.  The Williams, five.  We had to build seven prototypes to perfect the Heflin Barstool.

prototypes 3 and 4   prototype 6   pile of rejected parts
Prototypes 3 and 4   Prototype 6   Pile of Reject Parts

Heflin Bar Stools in setting
Heflin Barstools in Setting

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