Featured Designer: Robby Cuthbert
Robby Cuthbert is an up and coming artist and designer based out of Palo Alto, California. As a child Robby loved creating things and after years of playing with every building set he could get his hands on, Robby went on to study sculpture and architecture at Williams College.
His current focus is on designing functional art that can be produced on a slightly larger scale in order to bring his work to as many people as possible, “It is my aim to create truly unique and artistically conceived works that can be enjoyed by more than just a select few.”
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR DESIGN AESTHETIC
Steel cables and wood are my primary materials, rather than using fasteners or joinery to hold a piece of furniture together, I rely completely on the carefully tensioned cables to do the job. The Contour Coffee table is perhaps the best example of this.
Take a look and see if you can figure out how everything is supported! You’ll notice that none of the legs touch each other and each one touches the ground in only one place. The design explores tension as the means of creating a stable system, using counteracting forces provided by the cables to hold the four bamboo curves in place. Though the four curves “float” independently and never touch each other, the table is completely stable.
WHO ARE YOUR GREATEST STYLE INFLUENCERS?
One of my greatest style influencers is an architect named Santiago Calatrava. In addition to being an architect, Calatrava is also an engineer and he creates incredible structures that are part building, part sculpture.The Milwaukee Art Museum is a great example of his unique style, with it “wings” that open and close throughout the day.
Calatrava often incorporates steel cable as a structural element. I love studying his designs when I’m generating new ideas. He has often come under fire for the impracticality of his buildings and his tendency to favor form over function, but, since I’m working on a smaller scale and designing furniture instead of buildings, I have more freedom and fewer constraints.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR LATEST PROJECT
I am currently designing a table lamp that is inspired, in part, by stringed instruments.
Its neck abstractly resembles the neck of a guitar and it is balanced on the base by four tensioned cables that run up and over it.
Sometimes designs come to me pretty quickly, but this one has been much more of a slow burn. The first version of the lamp was too complicated, featuring a shade made out of nine walnut frames stacked on top of each other. All other prototypes since then have been a step in the right direction, with each one simpler and better than the one before it.
The biggest lesson I take from this project is that simpler is usually better. I have found this time and again with other designs I have developed: Once you have something that you think is working, try making it even simper and odds are it will also make it better.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE PROJECT SO FAR?
Like the lamp I am currently working on, the Suspension Shelf was a long time in the making. I sketched and built eight different plywood prototypes before I finally landed on the right solution. The first several prototypes were truly ugly and very impractical. They featured curved shelves and intrusive, protruding cables.
It wasn’t until I decided to constrain myself to purely rectangular forms that things started to come together. The design process involves a lot of trial and error and going through so many failed designs just makes it that much more satisfying when you come up with a good one. To this day, the Suspension Shelf is my favorite piece of furniture I have designed.
Play the Style Game with Robby Cuthbert
Click here to play the Style Game by pairing Robby’s Contour Coffee Table with a chair from the Christopher Knight Home Collection.
Click here to play the Style Game by pairing Robby’s Balance Table Lamp with a table from the Christopher Knight Home Collection.