Oct 14, 2013
07:00 AM
Arts & Entertainment

Litchfield Hills Furniture Designer, With Music Stand in MoMA's Collection, Channels the Sublime

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He described his process of creation on his website, noting that he likes  to make several designs, called “cartoons,” trying the acrylic paintings on paper first. A mock-up comes next, full-sized in the case of the coat rack.

For “Thalassia,” undulating “blades” of oak, rooted in a metal floor pan, form the coat rack and boot tray.

Though stationary, both the music stand and the coat rack convey a sense of lightness, and movement.

Mr. Scofield said he likes “to explore shape and mass.”

Mr. Scofield’s “Equestrian” bench, crafted from Honduran mahogany, is at the opposite end of the weight spectrum. The zoomorphic form has considerable heft yet in its coloration and finish it appears skin soft.

In his formal description of the piece, which he created in 1987 and which has been exhibited on both sides of the Atlantic, Mr. Scofield noted that he had learned “a ‘stacking’ technique in which the grains are aligned from dozens of pre-cut mahogany boards” to create the bench, which he then carved, sanded and finished, after using black chalk to delineate some of the bench’s musculature.

Mr. Scofield acknowledged that it’s “serendipity” that a piece he designed as a student contributed so much in establishing his professional reputation.

“In some ways, designers are like idiot savants,” he said. “They don’t live in the present, but in some other world. When their things hit the sidewalk, that’s where they live.”

“I like to make things, and I’m always looking for a clue for something thing I could make,” he said.

Mr. Scoville said that about 70 of his music stands have been sold to date, and while the price today for one would be $5,000, he said he would like to see more of them in use.

“I’d like to sell it for $49, in plastic, so when they go out in the world it has a second life. It’s the rest of the world that gives it value,” he said.

Mr. Scofield is currently working on furniture designs he would like to see mass-market produced, including a chair. He said he was thinking about “two groups, indoor and outdoor—to be done in plastic, powder-coated steel and aluminum.”

Over the course of more than four decades dedicated to elegant and intelligent design, Mr. Scofield has amassed a portfolio of architectural design, both residential and commercial, and art work, including sculpture.

“I like the process of exploration,” he said, “and of solving problems. I like to figure out how to make something work, and do it beautifully.”

In the case of the coat rack, he solved problems through a number of trials; with large furniture pieces, he creates maquettes, or small-scale models, which have attracted collectors’ interest as well.

Making small-scale models is both time efficient and cost effective, he said. “And it’s fun to be able to hold the model in your hand,” he added.

Curve continues to be an important element in Mr. Scofield’s work, whether it’s the design of an outdoor wall or a table.

“When we see contemporary designers using biomophic curves, it is fashionable these days to say that the inspiration came surely from the modernist European sculptors Brancusi, Moore or Arp. Personally, I have always preferred British sculptor Barbara Hepworth in this department. She was often more bold with her shapes than the men. And certainly elegant,” he said on his website (http://johneverettscofield.blogspot.com). “And more confident,” he told this writer.

Not the curve but interplay of bands of color are being explored in a series of acrylic paintings Mr. Scofield has recently been creating. He said he is working with the new Miller Yezerski gallery in Boston (Ellen Miller and Howard Yezerski).

When it was mentioned that some seem to have a Navajo-like quality, Ms. Scofield shared that he spent some time on a Navajo reservation in the 1980s and the Navajo words “with beauty before me, behind me, below me, all around me” continue to resonate with him as he works in his quiet, light-filled workshop.

“I can’t get caught up in post-structural craziness,” he said. “We all need guidelines, so we can make our choices.”

Mr. Scofield said that he is guided, too, by the rigor that was applied to assessment of work during his student days.

“If you went to RIT then, they didn’t care how good something looked, but it had to be better than anything ever before,” he said. “If you had both, you had done something special.”

To find out more about the designer’s process and projects, including how he tackled the task of making a chicken coop, visit his website.

This story is from the autumn issue of Passport magazine, a publication of The Litchfield County Times.


Litchfield Hills Furniture Designer, With Music Stand in MoMA's Collection, Channels the Sublime

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