Behind Working Wood: Q&A with Ben BurnettPosted by: Rosemary Poole on December 17, 2009 / 1:02 PM
This is the fifth (and final) installment in our series on the Vancouver woodworkers featured in our current MOV Studio Exhibit, Working Wood, on view now until January 3, 2010. The last word goes to Ben Burnett of Zillion Design.
What inspired the Pivot Table?
My background is as a sculptor, and my sculptures are always interactive. My progression into furniture design was fostered by a fascination with interaction, and the fact that a piece of furniture can be the ultimate sculptural expression. A piece of furniture can remain fresh if you’re able to interact with it. In the way that you’d rearrange the furniture in the room to keep the room fresh, you can rearrange this piece.
How does Vancouver influence your work?
Strongly. I think there’s a simplicity to the West Coast style of things. There’s a warm minimalism in our surroundings. I also use a lot of local wood species—Western Maple is the predominant wood used in the Pivot Table. I’m also influenced just being around other designers and seeing what’s out there. We definitely influence each other.
What are the advantages designing and building furniture here?
The natural surroundings are, of course, very inspirational. There’s such a strong design community here, and I think people are really starting to take notice of Vancouver for this.
And the disadvantages?
The cost of living and working here is pretty outrageous.
Where do you source your materials?
A lot of the metal I use, as is the case with the Pivot Table, comes from various scrapyards around Vancouver. As for wood, most of the hardwoods have to come from retailers, as there just aren’t that many hardwood species native to this area. I do end up milling a fair amount of local logs that I source from arborist friends and tips from people in the right places.
Whose work do you follow, in Vancouver or elsewhere?
When I first started building furniture, I was really influenced by Arnt Arntzen, and his amazing use of salvaged materials. Now it’s all the people I’ve come to know who are designing and building furniture, including Arnt. I’m lucky enough to share a studio with Peter Pierobon, who’s truly a pioneer in the studio-furniture world. There’s also Seiji and Himali Kuwabara of In Element Designs, and of course all the guys in this show, who do amazing work. Outside of Vancouver, the people I follow are diverse, historical, and not all of them are furniture designers: Hans Wegner and Arne Jacobsen, Mark Newsom, and David Trubridge, Anish Kapoor and Janet Cardiff.
What are you working on now?
Beds, beds, and more beds. I’m also designing an armchair version of my Slide Dining Chair.