Ikebana and the Art of Furniture Making
by Suzanne Kamata
page 2 of 4

Flower Arrangement ClassShe signed up for a class in Japanese flower arrangement at a community center in Tokushima. Through ikebana, Kingsbury's aesthetics altered. In her previous job, she'd been aware that "people didn't want spaces in bouquets." But in Japan, under the tutelage of a Japanese teacher, she was converted to the belief that beauty can be found in the asymmetrical, a theory she now employs in furniture making.

A completed chair of bleached driftwood is situated near the door of the studio. One thick branch stands straight up, foil to the sensuous boomerang curve of the middle piece rising to meet a notched spire. The chair, with its many surprising twists and turns, is so interesting to look at, and so obviously a work of much love and labor, that I hesitate to sit on it. When I do, however, I find it sturdy and comfortable.


"I enjoy pushing the limits of functional design: how much and where can one blur the symmetry of a chair and still have it be useful, even comfortable? Asymmetry is one of ikebana's most distinguishing characteristics, and a quality that keeps these arrangements visually interesting for a lot longer than something entirely symmetrical. Thus, although the furniture that I make must be primarily symmetrical to suit gravity and the human body, I enjoy the challenge of incorporating irregularities in wood and line that strike a lively and unusual balance."

Kingsbury also incorporates unpredictable spaces in many of her pieces. "This is rooted in my attraction to ikebana compositions that enclose a space - often with a few dramatic branch lines - and then have something 'play' in it," she says. "I find this very dynamic."


With money in pocket from teaching English conversation, she returned to California and began building a house, something she'd dreamed of doing since childhood. Incredibly, the carpentry was not enough to keep her occupied and she began casting about for a summer project. While looking for a something on Japanese joinery in a Berkeley bookstore, she came across a book on making furniture from twigs. She soon found, however, that building a house was easier than making its furnishings. Her first creation was "a chair that fell apart."

One of the chairAccording to instructions in the book, she was supposed to drill holes for the nails that would hold the chair together. "I didn't have a drill," she remembers. "I didn't know how to use a drill. So I just hammered - a mistake."

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