Process: Eleven34 Stool

Eleven34 is another project I conceived and fabricated during my 10-week residency at Anderson Ranch Arts Center. Unlike Infill, which was driven by an underlying formal concept (a solid, but disintegrating cube), Eleven34 came about from a profound interest in the material- a nearly 3-inch thick slab of solid walnut. Here was a piece of lumber unlike any I’d worked with before, available for my exploration and manipulation.

Raw material: 3" Walnut slabI think the response from many woodworkers on how one might express the mass of the raw material in a finished piece of furniture or sculpture is to keep the material intact- the 3” thick slab remains a 3” thick slab, thus expressing mass and in a way, respecting the source material. In fact, this was my initial response to the walnut slab- that the best way to respect the beauty of the wood was with minimal intervention, and certainly no subtractive processes.

Walnut slab dicedIt came to my attention, however, that while maintaining the slab would preserve the exterior expression of the mass, there was a lot of expression inside that was effectively hidden forever. It became my goal, then and there, to find a way to reveal the internal essence of the walnut tree. Thus arose the non-intuitive desire to dice the slab into cubes- for a moment, the mass would be all but obliterated, but I intended to “reconstruct” it in a manner that would reveal its interior, without reducing its presence.

Eleven34 StoolIt was about this point that I chose descriptors such as “exploding tree trunk” or, as an allusion to the geometricity of the construct, “exploding Rubik’s Cube”, to illustrate the form I was closing in on: 3×3 grids of cubes, separated by spacers, and stacked into a rectangular column. The configuration serves as a nod to the initial state of the material- a sizeable hunk of wood, but systematically dissects it in such a way as to reveal its dimensionality. This, I found to be a more suitable tribute to a lovely piece of wood than simply presenting in the state in which I found it.

Beyond the implicit designation of Eleven34 as a place to sit, it exudes a sculptural quality, independent of function. As such, I wanted a surface treatment that avoided suggestions of hierarchical placement and/or approach, allowing the individual to experience the piece without a filter. Hence the faceting of each surface: not only is the material manipulated into a more expressive form, that form is inviting, if not accommodating, from any angle or approach. Furthermore, the concave effect is subtle, and encourages deeper investigation, bolstering my initial desire to reveal the interior of the walnut slab.

Converting a 3-inch thick slab of wood into several smaller pieces (34 blocks altogether, each eleven quarters of inch thick, to be exact) may seem a counterintuitive way to express the mass of the material, but I believe Eleven34 offers even greater insight into the true nature of the material, via exploded view. I’ve since had the opportunity to explore this notion further, and more literally, with a piece I constructed in Alaska: watch Chulitna Lodge Featurette.

Eleven34 is a one-of-a-kind piece of furniture, and is currently available for sale. Please direct inquiries to justin@justinbuilds.com

  • Custom solid walnut stool, Anderson Ranch residency; www.justinbuilds.com