Katai Chairs

I create because I have to. It is as essential to my being as the food I eat and the air I breathe. My process begins with visions of shape and line. As an object begins to take form, I draw loose sketches of my vision. The forms then begin to take on more distinctive characteristics, and I go over the original drawing with heavier, more defined lines. Once this design has taken form on paper, I chart out a journey to travel with the raw material. I leave openings in my plan so I have the opportunity to explore avenues that may not have been visible on the original route. I navigate through the process trusting my instincts as I go. While I keep an eye on the map, I retain the right to be impulsive, to change, and to improve my route along the path of reaching my final destination.

Some of my influences are more obvious: Japanese aesthetics, the Natural World and Fantasy. I have come to realize, however, that there is a deeper, underlying drive influencing my designs. The environment in which I grew up continues to inspire me. As a child I lived in Keokuk, Iowa, a heavily industrialized river town with huge smoke belching factories, railroad tracks meandering through it, and a lock and dam that still amazes me. I am intrigued by the resiliency of nature and how she manages in some way, to take back what we try to claim from her. I think back on the old brewery across the river with fifty or sixty-year-old trees growing within its once grand walls, and the abandoned bridge, now simply a rusting hulk. I used to spend my time wandering around these remnants and dream up fantastic stories. These were my Stone Henge and my ancient castle keep. I have fond childhood memories of spending summers on my grandparent's farm. I would construct forts from parts off the old combine and old barn boards, and then I would weave tall shocks of grass through all the openings to create my impenetrable fortrace. These forts in retrospect were my first attempts at functional sculpture. This is what drives my work: the manmade in unity with or in contrast to the natural.

My inspirations almost always take form as a piece of furniture. I attest this to my practical Mid-western roots, where I was taught that material things should serve a function. I also work with furniture forms because of the scale. It is intimate, yet approachable. My work is art that you do not simply observe, but interact with every day.

The process of creating is as important as the finished piece. I find it spell binding; the hypnotic powers of manipulating red hot steel, the meditative draw of hand-finishing a beautiful piece of wood. In my work, I choose to leave some signs of the maker behind. More than just a signature, these rasp lines and grind marks are the visual signs of the process. They help to tell the story of its creation. They also give clues about the maker. These "fingerprints" are there to be experienced and help the viewer/participant to achieve a richer connection with the work. I am part of the piece, as are the inspirations and influences that came before me.


Chris Martin Article

e-mail: director@functionart.com | phone: 312.243.2780