Phone: 609.502.1814 ; Email: markjclemmens@receptivedesignstudio.com

Design Methodology.

The details of how + why my work comes to be.

Philosophy
In my mind, RECEPTIVE DESIGN is principally about designing intuitively; pure and simple.  It’s an essential part of my design technique which helps to define potential order or direction within the context of my work.  RECEPTIVE design, to me, is specifically about using my feelings cooperatively with analytical thought, design + investigation; without the act of blind acceptance + subsequent blind response.  My goal is to apply receptive design to all of my furniture and woodworking projects.

RECEPTIVE DESIGN, through another lens, is also about being openly willing to consider, test, and apply new ideas, beliefs, concepts and interpretations; all while adapting these things to a constantly evolving design ideology.

Process
Most of my projects typically begin with some kind of initial thought, concept, or idea; something that initiates the drive to a solution.  This idea could be something site specific; either related to a specific person or place, or maybe even a group of people or places.  It could be a specific structural condition or system, the merger of multiple systems or functions, or it could simply be a specific design process or methodology of its own, which I wish to explore and experiment with.

This initial idea, fused with the interest + needs of the client, is the driving force which informs not only the design and development of the project, but the design process itself.  Certain projects may require very specific design strategies, while others may require a more expansive approach.  I try to look at each project through a variety of lenses, at various scales, in order to develop an initial scope of potential possibilities.

Technique
Throughout the design process, a variety of design techniques + methods are used.  I place a heavy emphasis on the initial translation of thoughts into physical reality, through drawing.  This is executed cooperatively with diagramming, physical and digital modeling, photography, measuring + scaling techniques related to aesthetics, structural analysis, and finally, full scale construction drawings and documents.  Careful observation, investigation, and interpretation all contribute to the final product.  Much of this information is shared with the client throughout the process for a thorough, cooperative understanding of the final product.

In terms of construction and woodworking techniques, all of my work is handcrafted with real wood joinery.  I spend much time designing my work and the joinery that holds it together; both on paper and digitally, in CAD.  I will always provide you with a product which you will never need to replace.  I only build with this traditional type of joinery, hand crafted, yet executed with modern procedures + techniques to maintain efficiency.

 

Materials

As a craftsman, I am not only willing, but eager to work with a constantly growing set of materials.  I see materials as a potential kit of parts, all with the individual potential to aid in the articulation of the final composition.  Primarily, however, I tend to work with wood.  Wood is the principle building material of man, and it is an excellent substrate for making.  It’s diverse in species, abundant, regenerative, extremely strong + lightweight, as well as resistant to decay .  It’s also relatively easy to work; and of course, it’s beautiful.

Wood also stands apart from most other materials, for it has a multitude of positive values that are not as easily quantifiable in scientific terms.  We relate to wood on a primal, fundamental level, through the experience of the senses. This creates a unique bond between humans and trees.  Not only do we routinely engage wood through every standard sense, whether it be sight, sound, touch, smell, or taste, these relationships are interestingly, and oddly, very closely connected to us + our well being.  The richness with which wood resonates with us creates a beautiful, emotional relationship with the material.

Each individual piece of wood tells a story.  Containing a wealth of information, each and every board is a diagram of the life of the particular tree from which it was taken.  My task as a designer and a craftsman is to incorporate each piece of material exactly where it wants to be, and to justify its existence.  Building with once living tissue, however, provides a unique array of challenges which adds an interesting new layer to the design process.  Wood, along with everything else, is constantly in motion + always reacting to the environment.  Even the most dimensionally stable species can move quite a bit, and all of this movement needs to be accounted for in order to retain the visual and structural integrity of the material.  This is one prominent place from which I draw my inspiration; especially pertaining to the investigation of structural and formal design solutions.

Style

I believe my work simply reflects myself, the materials I work with + my design methodologies.  This includes everything from the places and spaces that I have inhabited, the circumstances I have experienced, to the evidence I have discovered in my environments.

My work also tends to reflect the relationships and organizations in nature that I am attracted to.  I have a very strong interest in the science of the materials with which I work.   This is especially true of the specific details of how things are put together; the joinery, the connections, the structure and the moving parts are all places that my mind constantly tends to investigate.  Every small detail is just as important to me as the overall form and function of any particular piece.

My work also reflects history.  People have been working wood for millennia, and throughout all of this time have developed many procedures and techniques for dealing with and working with wood.  I believe it is essential to study these techniques + methods and to use this information to solve design problems within my own work; as well as to develop my own techniques + methods.  My work tends to merge the ideas of the past with my own modern approach.

Modern Materials

There is this commonly accepted notion that modern design means simple, plain, or even boring (and some of the time it is), but I believe this is generally a misunderstanding; mainly as a result of the introduction of new wood fiber based building materials in architecture and furniture, such as plywood, fiber-boards, particle-boards, as well as plastics.  While many of these materials and incredible in terms of their possibilities, much of modern design tends to reflect them and their working properties, and the fact that they don’t have to respond structurally in the same way that wood must.  These materials don’t respond to the environment in the same manner that wood does; specifically in reference to moisture and temperature changes.  For that reason, they can lack all of the traditional methods and approaches to dealing with these types of issues that we traditionally see in wood design; issues such as expansion + contraction and other types of dimensional instabilities, which are solved when working with solid wood by incorporating techniques such as raised panels, joinery which allows for expansion, proper grain orientation, etc.

Good quality plywood, in the right hands, is an amazing material.  It’s extremely strong, versatile, and has changed the way that we build.  It can be manipulated, worked and joined + fastened in ways that solid wood simply can’t.  I believe it is foolish to ignore this kind of technology.  Rather, I believe in the inclusion of these kinds of materials in our work, and simply using them to our advantage to solve our never ending changing world and the design problems that come with it.

 

Inspiration + Influence
I’ve had a desire to design the world around me my entire life.  I can’t pinpoint exactly where it came from, but it’s probably my only thread of interest + desire that has remained consistently taut year after year.  Japanese architecture and joinery, however, was my original source of inspiration with respect to serious woodworking + construction.  It’s what drove me to begin woodworking, and helped me to understand the complex possibilities that wood as a material presents.

The “fluid” nature of wood as a material is another prominent place from which I draw my inspiration.  Wood movement consistently becomes a major challenge, and the investigation of potential solutions becomes even more interesting, as there is an infinite amount of ways to build the “same” thing.  I enjoy dealing with the difficulties of working with solid wood, and I express this in my work through the inclusion of these techniques + design solutions.  Each and every piece or part of a project is there for a reason.

The architecture of the universe around us and within us is ultimately the core of all of my interests.  The natural world and it’s systems, structures, processes, and physics is my source of endless inspiration.  My goal is to attempt to express even a fraction of this through my work.

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