Sarah Maude Story
A New York State native, Sarah moved to Brooklyn to attend Pratt Institute four years ago. The young designer graduated with a degree in Industrial Design and has worked with furniture, table top, lighting, rugs, and other soft goods.
What immediately attracted me to Sarah’s work were the familiar forms of her newly created designs. When discussing Sarah’s work with her, I understood that she not only appreciated these forms but was also aware of their history. And, most importantly, as a designer of furniture she is also thinking of the user: “my inspiration comes from observing contemporary products and studying those of the past. I love ‘people watching’ to see how people interact with, and react to objects. I particularly enjoy looking at automobiles, fashion, architecture and furniture for their forms in relation to the users.” The trouble with so many contemporary furniture designers today is that while their pieces are beautiful they are not practical. These sculptures are not appropriate for our modern living conditions. On the flip side, Sarah does not substitute beauty for comfort: her work takes both into consideration.
“Nouvelle Nouveau” was the piece that she exhibited at the Pratt Show 2010. I instantly fell-in love with Sarah’s original interpretation of Art Nouveau furniture. The settee is a take on its eighteenth-century French ancestor and the curve of the back is in homage to the sinuous lines characteristic of the Art Nouveau period. We should keep in mind that a key influence on the Art Nouveau, or “new art”, was “old” art. Art Nouveau designers were responsible for creating a modern style in the old French tradition of elegance and luxury, which called to mind eighteenth-century French furniture. Her inspiration for this piece came not just from furniture (See Georges de Feure suite of furniture from ca. 1900) and architecture but also the grand, curving staircases (Perhaps Victor Horta’s staircase in Tassel House [1892-3] in Brussels, another center of Art Nouveau were a reference?) of the period as well. I also loved her choice for the materials. Sarah’s use of pre-fabricated cane and laminated birch completely goes against the idea of luxury yet she is still able to produce a beautifully finished product. Furniture in the Art Nouveau style was not only difficult to create but also very expensive. Skilled cabinetmakers were employed in the furniture making workshops as the pieces had to often be first in made in wax, then in plaster, then, finally, in wood. And of course, her play on words in the title of the piece is completely appropriate: this is the new New.
“Horizon” is also a particularly beautiful piece. Here again, Sarah is channeling turn of the twentieth- century decorative arts. Although she has now abandoned the French masters and is inspired by Carlo Bugatti. Bugatti was one of the premier Italian artist’s associated with the Stile Floreale, as the Art Nouveau was called in Italy. The gap in the curved seat reminds me of his “Cobra” chair (1902). Sarah and I are once again in sync, she said that for this particular chair was inspired by a Bugatti design from the early 1900’s, particularly the idea of a cantilevered seat. Bugatti’s work is one of the most admired, and original, of the Italian Art Nouveau designers. Inspired by the forms of Moorish architecture, Bugatti’s work is in museum collections worldwide. “Horizon” is made of ½” birch veneer plywood and which was then stained, a practice not uncommon even in 1902.
The final piece in her collection is called “Tangled.” This piece began from her exploration of bent wood and is an extension of her bending work for the “Nouvelle Nouveau.” The stool is made of bent ash, which the designer stained blue after it was constructed. She told me that she chose to use the color blue because she wanted to take the material out of context in order to make the overall form more dominant than if it were seen as a material first and a stool second.
Sarah’s work was exhibited last summer as part of a group show at the Way Out Gallery in Rensselaerville, NY. I am looking forward to see what Miss Story has up her sleeve for us …which architecturally rich decade will she explore next?
Please visit Sarah’s site: http://sarahmaudestory.carbonmade.com/