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."
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."