Woodworker Michael Javidi handcrafts a chair swing.
Every morning, while Michael Javidi is meditating in his hanging teardrop-shaped chair, it gently sways back and forth. “Even when I’m perfectly still,” he says, “it registers my breath and heartbeat because it’s so light. I never want to create a static piece of furniture. There should always be life.”
Javidi, who studied woodworking at Boston’s North Bennet Street School, first developed an appreciation for subtle movements and motion while he was employed as a shipwright at Wooden Boatworks on the North Fork, where he constructed and restored yachts for six years. “There’s always movement with a boat,” says the Smithtown native, who now makes his home in Greenport. “Its lines are not just beautiful; they make it functional. I’m applying that same balance of form and function to my work today.”
After branching out on his own last year, Javidi began experimenting with new shapes using techniques familiar from his previous gig, like steam bending, which involves contorting wood with heat. He designed a fanned basket that eventually morphed into a chair called Le Nid, comprising 14 thin pieces of bent hickory seemingly frozen in a lyrical formation. “It gains its strength from small pieces working as one,” he comments. “It looks fragile, but it’s actually very strong.”
In a red barn at Treiber Farms in Peconic, Javidi goes about the slow and methodical process of building each chair. To begin, he places seven pieces of wood into a steam-filled pipe for 45 minutes. After removing the still-hot strips, he bends them around a jig, then repeats the process with seven more pieces of hickory, all of which are clamped overnight. The halves are then glued together and gathered at the top, where Javidi drills a hole for a bronze bar from which the chair will hang. Fresh pieces of wood are fastened to the bottom to create a seat, later covered with leather, and steam-bent strips form a backrest. The finished design is then hand-sanded over several days and oiled. “When you sit in a chair, there is often no movement, or you have to manipulate it yourself,” he says. “I like that this chair is animated on its own.”
The print version of this article appeared with the headline: Swinging Success.