Inspired by curves in nature and made with the painstaking detail of fine architecture, Richard Judd’s pieces, such as Ribbon Chair, capture the spirit of their creator. He recently took some time to tell us about his inspiration and techniques.
“My goal was to design a totally original chair,” says Richard Judd. “The technique (which was pioneered by Charles Eames) is layers of plys that are glued together. Eames first started doing this in the 1940s, so the process has been tested for time. An aspect unique to my designs is how radical the curves are. In industry, they would use male and female forms and crush the layers in between. Mine can’t be done that way because the design curls back on itself, so I’ve come up with my own technique. It’s all done with a vinyl bag under vacuum pressure.”
Who or what has influenced your art the most?
“The Eames tradition of bending plys. But throughout my career, my favorite artist has been Wendell Castle. He’s just really been a leader, always trying new styles, and he’s broken ground in making furniture an art form.”
How did you get started as an artist?
“I went to architecture school. Upon graduation I found that being in an office all day wasn’t a good fit for me. One summer, I worked as a carpenter, and that went well, so I started working in a shop that built furniture. They had some employees who were classically trained woodworkers, so I picked up a lot from them. I went back to school too. Then I started my own shop.”
What do you keep in your studio to inspire you?
“The building is an old industrial building with glass block windows. I have this window ledge, so I put natural elements—twisty branches, stones, interesting cut-offs from the saw that look like a piece of sculpture—on it and people keep adding things, glueing little blocks together. There’s always a surprise. It’s a fun little sculpture garden.”
Where do you get your best ideas?
“I just keep drawing. Something can seem like a good idea, so I’ll just keep sketching it and making models. It’s an incubation problem. It’s best not to make it immediately, but just keep drawing. I used to get an idea and just go build it right away. Now I know how valuable time and materials are, and I get it refined on paper. I’m a perfectionist.”
What do you do when you need inspiration?
“My favorite thing to do is to go to the bookstore and browse through the art and architectural magazines to get an idea of what’s current out there. I also have a really great library. My bedside book is 1,000 Chairs. I like to see what’s been done so I don’t repeat it.”
Describe a breakthrough moment.
“The one that really stands out is the Spiral Coffee Table. At the time, that design was different from all my other work. I was really obsessed with figuring out how to make that. I was working on a commission for someone, and when they came to visit me at the studio, they saw it and said, ‘We want that one.’ It was nothing like the one we had been working together on. Now all my work uses that technique. It’s becoming like a signature for me. Something really resonates in that pure spiral form. I keep coming up with other designs, but nothing is as strong as that.”
What do you love about what you do?
“Seeing the progress at the end of each day is really important. I can do my paperwork and get it finished, but there’s something about building, actually seeing the progress at the end of the day.”