Students make furniture art with machinery

by Liliana Cervantes, Staff Writer

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The furniture design and woodworking workshop at San Diego State is usually hectic with the sound of machines, crunching wood and buzzing saws. This is the sound of some of SDSU’s dedicated and artistic furniture design students hard at work.

The SDSU art department offers students numerous areas of study, including woodworking and applied design with a specialization in furniture design. The Furniture Design Association is a student organization on campus that promotes the craft of woodworking among students. Furniture design and woodworking graduate student and FDA President Phil Rowland said he is proud of the students that are learning these valuable skills.

“Anytime you see someone making something with their hands now instead of buying it and deciding to make it fit within their lives, it’s interesting and fantastic,” he said.

Furniture design and woodworking graduate student and FDA member Joshua Torbick agrees.

“I think there is a certain segment of society that really appreciates actually making something with their hands,” he said. “Not everyone wants to sit at a computer or a desk all day. A lot of people really enjoy working with machinery, maybe actually sweating a little bit. You might get a cut on your finger, I cut myself at least once a week. It’s just part of working hard.”

Torbick said SDSU has a fantastic woodworking program, and that it’s one of the top schools in the country for furniture design.

Torbick presented his Masters of Fine Arts thesis exhibition, titled “Changing Positions,” in the University Art Gallery this April. Torbick lost his right leg in an unfortunate motorcycle accident, and the exhibition was inspired by his new reality of life after the accident. The exhibition featured furniture design art pieces that utilize anthropomorphic qualities to symbolize the destruction people sustain to their bodies.

Torbick said he likes to refer to his art pieces as “furniture objects.”

“This is part of the healing process, to be able to share what’s in my heart, what’s in my mind so maybe other people can understand and be more sympathetic to other people with disabilities,” Torbick said.

FDA members are currently completing works for the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, an upcoming world-renowned furniture show in New York City. It showcases the best new works in contemporary furniture.

Furniture design and woodworking graduate student and FDA member Sophie Glenn said it’s a unique and exciting opportunity to represent SDSU and the furniture design program among other leading schools in the field.

FDA has received funding from SDSU through a grant from the student success fee. FDA students attending the ICFF have also received a corporate scholarship and luggage bags from Pelican Products to carry their entered art pieces.

FDA students share their artwork around the country and have participated in events in Los Angeles and Chicago, as well.

Torbick said the FDA has been a fantastic way for graduate students in particular to be as involved as possible in the inner workings of the furniture design and woodworking program.

Rowland said furniture design and woodworking students devote numerous hours to their projects and to developing and honing their skills.

“We really love what we do so; it’s sort of easy for us to spend that much time in the studio,” Glenn said.

Torbick said despite the sometimes-stressful environment, everyone has a good time together.

“It’s unbelievable that sometimes you can spend 12 hours working next to somebody and still want to go out with them after the day is done,” he said. “It’s probably 10 percent hate but 90 percent love.”

The FDA and furniture design and woodworking program aims to continue to teach future Aztecs about woodworking skills and furniture art.

“None of us are doing this to make a million bucks, we’re all doing it because we love it and don’t want to do anything else,” Torbick said.

Glenn said she is thankful to SDSU for their continuous support.

“We just want people to get excited about making furniture,” she said.

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