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Make a Seat, Take a Seat: MCCC 3-D Design Students Present Capstone Chair Projects


An '80s pop wonderland designed by Ashley Banes.

A movie-themed chair for two designed by Alana Miles (kneeling) and Timothy Munoz, standing at right.

Albert Brown's toddler chair.

Anthony Manansala plays guitar sitting on his "Feels Like Home" chair.

West Windsor, N.J. – It’s a final project that is delightfully creative and imaginative – and occasionally even functional. As part of the art assignments in their Three-Dimensional Design class with Professor Michael Welliver, Mercer County Community College (MCCC) students presented the chairs they created from found objects and got feedback from their classmates during the last class of the semester.

According to Welliver, the project required students to create a chair using objects that originally functioned as something else. “They need to find the parts and create the chair with as little manufacturing as possible,” he said.

The assignment is intended to incorporate design elements the students have been focusing on throughout the semester. "They must decide on a coherent theme and consider concepts like color, balance, positive and negative space, unity, scale, line and plane. These are the building blocks of composition,” Welliver said.

He notes that these design concepts are also introduced in the Two-Dimensional Design course. “But in 3-D, it’s a whole different ballgame,” he said.

Sometimes students have a similar idea and want to work together. “That’s fine, but they have to make their chair bigger so they can both sit on it,” Welliver said.

On the day of the final project, one by one, 12 students moved their chairs to the center of the circle, first demonstrating that they could indeed sit on them and then listening to comments from their classmates.

“The critique is part of the lesson,” Welliver explained. “Artists need to learn a vocabulary to speak about art. At this stage, students should be developing self-confidence and finding ‘their tribe.’ The support of a small cohesive group is an important foundation and that doesn’t usually happen in a university setting.”

Albert Brown’s toddler chair was greeted enthusiastically all around. The main component was blocks in primary colors and varying shapes that Brown had painstakingly glued together to create a circular seat. Added elements were cylindrical tubes commonly known as swimmies for armrests and small colorful balls at the base. Classmates noted the pleasing juxtaposition of hard and soft objects and a theme that awakened happy memories of childhood. Brown himself said, “It was my best work all semester.”

Ashley Banes’s “Welcome to my Wonderland” chair also featured some childlike elements – but with a strikingly 80s pop feel. From slinky armrests, to skateboard wheels, to a seat decorated with Twister circles, and a back rest composed of record albums and a Twister spinner, her chair was lauded for its color, movement and fun-filled vibe.

Timothy Munoz and Alana Miles worked together on a movie-themed chair composed of old videocassettes as the base and CD cases as the chair’s back. They even distributed soda and boxes of popcorn to emphasize their theme. Miles said she had a great time working on this project. “I have taken other art classes at Mercer, so I was aware of this assignment,” she said. “I have been looking forward to doing it.”

Anthony Manansala’s “Feels Like Home” chair combined elements one might find in a bedroom – storage containers filled with books, a guitar and amp, and a comfy pillow seat. He supplemented his presentation by singing a song on his guitar. “The added element of sound makes it even more real,” one of his classmates said. Students also complimented his consistent use of muted colors, varied textures, and the chair’s overall shape.

Manansala said the assignment pushed him to create something on a larger scale. “It really brought out our creative sides.” Mike Davila, whose Water Transport chair featured a cluster of empty water cooler jugs that somehow managed to stand upside down, said, “This project brought new meaning to everyday items.”

Welliver notes that the use found objects in art is an idea that goes back more than a century. “While our students have been doing this project for many years, with social media branding it as ‘upcycling,’ this type of art is having a resurgence.”

Art Courses at Mercer

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