Good Design: I'll Know It, When I See It.

Design is always a factor in furniture making.  So when people ask us, “How do you come up with a good design?” We often joke, “Prayer and fasting.” But to be honest, it comes most often through trial and error; trying new materials, testing ideas, making prototypes and believing in the statement, “I’ll know it, when I see it.”

Case in point, two years ago Abbey Woodworking was asked to create a unique, thank-you gift that would be readily recognizable as something from Saint John’s and could rest on a desktop.  For months we came up with ideas for this gift, but none seemed to stick.  Hoping for inspiration, we sent out word to friends of the Woodshop.  A few days later we received a sketch of a wooden tray from a local architect and good friend of Saint John’s, David Engleson. Upon seeing his sketch, we immediately knew that we had found our design because “We had seen it.”  Earlier this month, David’s design became a reality in what we call the Plateau.

For those who know Saint John’s, the design of the Plateau may seem somehow familiar.  This is because its inspiration comes from two iconic objects of the Abbey and University Church: the bell banner and the baldachin that hangs over the altar.  David writes, “I was thinking of the smooth lines of the baldachin and bell banner when sketching it (the Plateau).  One of my favorite parts of the church is the very subtle curve of the exterior side walls. It really makes the space…”   We now had our design, we just needed to execute it in wood.  

Questions of size, angles, thickness, type of wood, finish and tools had yet to be determined.  This again brought about a multitude of prototypes until we arrived at what was true to David’s design and still possible with the materials and tools available.

We crafted a limited number of Plateaus in Maple and Red Oak that are available for purchase through our online store.  We see them being used as serving trays, placed on a desktop to keep important items, or simply as beautiful objects to be displayed.

Visit the online market to see the Plateau and other items that are now available from Saint John’s Abbey Woodworking.