With most exhibition spaces in Providence, NYC and cities across the country still closed due to the pandemic, new Furniture Design graduates have turned to the internet to share their work with the wider world. “This group of students had to unexpectedly transition from working together in RISD’s facilities to working at home individually,” says Assistant Professor Megan Callahan 11 FD. “I am so pleased that we can showcase their ingenuity, creativity and compassion.”
The nine new MFA graduates are showing elements of their final thesis work online at Dezeen and Site Unseen Offsite Online, whose editors playfully welcome visitors to “the weird world of student thesis projects” and note that their work “happens to be much more sophisticated in execution than some of its playful conceptual starting points might suggest.”
Among those weirdly compelling homemade objects are Squeak Anemone Ottoman (made of pipe insulation, a yoga ball and stretchy fabric) by Joy Zhou MFA 20 FD and Dec31 (stainless steel, springs, cow hide, upholstery foam, cotton deck padding, fur fabric) by Kainan Liu MFA 20 FD.
“The work that each of us has contributed to this collection is as aesthetically and conceptually varied as we are diverse,” the designers explain in a group statement. “These objects are fragments of what would have been thesis shows and presentations drawn together to become something new.”
A larger online exhibition hosted by Wanted Design presents Senior Degree Projects by the 22 makers who just earned their BFAs in Furniture Design. Like their grad counterparts, they successfully transitioned from working communally in RISD’s fully equipped studios to making do with the tools and materials they were able to assemble in makeshift home studios.
“It has been an honor to work with this group of seniors through this challenging time,” says Associate Professor Patty Johnson. “They have shown themselves to be generous, thoughtful, kind, funny, serious people with outstanding self-directed work ethics.”
RISD students typically draw from their personal experiences in the studio, and this year’s cohort is no exception. Marked Desk by Amalia Attias 20 FD, for example, was inspired by her evolving attitude toward her own dyslexia. “My work is dedicated to understanding the true potential of cognitive abilities through the development process of art and design,” she explains.
And Alyssa Gerasimoff 20 FD was moved to create a wooden stool intended for young helpers in the kitchen in response to memories of cooking Russian dumplings with her grandmother.
Jasmine Gutbrod 20 FD worked collaboratively with Ceramics major Nikako Kanamoto 20 CR worked to conceive and create 100% Ceramic, Please Wash and Dry, a delightfully deceptive chair made from kiln-fired clay. “Our dream is to work with a team to design regenerative modules for coral reefs or coastal ecosystems,” the duo notes.
Other designers took their cues from materials and process: Hali Barthel 20 FD from braided cable tubing she initially encountered in a cat toy, and Cali Tee 20 FD from the joy of turning wood on the lathe.
Made of ash hand-painted with India ink, Tee’s Windsor-style bench was inspired by “an outrageously ridiculous purple, green and zebra couch we had in my house growing up that somehow fit with every house we moved to. My dream career,” she adds, “would be working in a prop house for theater or doing set designs for movies—using my talents to make an ordinary space vibrant and animated.”