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Students Challenged to Consider the Forest and the Trees in the 14th Annual Student Chair Design Competition from Wilsonart

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Winning chair, “Tool for Translation,” debuts at ICFF

NEW YORK, NY (May 20, 2018) – The theme “Wood, Trees and the Forest” inspired students at the Maine College of Art to design uncommon chairs for the 14th Annual Wilsonart Challenges Student Chair Design Competition. Each entry was inspired by the powerful, often personal connection the forest provokes and informed by complex forestry issues surrounding the use of wood. Students used patterns from the Wilsonart® Laminate Collection. The winning chair and five runners up will make their first public appearance in booth #2211 at the 2018 International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York.

Wilsonart, a world-leading provider of engineered surfacing solutions, created the year-long program, which is both a sponsored class and a competition. Students learn how to design and build a one-of-a-kind chair, as well as how to prepare for a major trade show. Wilsonart introduced the program more than a decade ago, making it the longest-running sponsored student design class in the U.S.

Joseph Goodwin won the 2018 competition with his design “Tool for Translation.” His chair renders the complex pop icon of the chainsaw into a chair. The power tool itself is representative of competing ideologies, disparate politics and contentious debates. By using it, Goodwin translates these complex issues into a refined and beautiful chair form while asking us to consider the threshold where a tree’s life ends and when the chair’s life begins.

“When we began our class, I took the students out to the forest for a nature-based learning experience,” said Grace Jeffers, Design Historian and Wilsonart Challenges Program Director. “In the woods, they experienced something they would never have experienced in a classroom. The diversity and intensity of the students’ deeply moving, personal and emotional responses both surprised and awed me.”  

A different design school hosts Wilsonart Challenges each year. Every chair is one-of-a-kind, handmade by the individual student and not intended for mass production. Goodwin will receive a scholarship and an all-expenses paid trip to New York to premiere his chair at ICFF.

“The students magnificently captured many sides of a complex debate, all using laminate, a beautiful material that is an alternative to threatened or endangered woods,” noted Tammy Weadock, Communications Manager at Wilsonart. “This year’s theme was a perfect complement to Understanding Wood: Sourcing Against the Grain, a program Wilsonart launched in 2017 to educate architects and designers about wood options that are from renewable, non-endangered trees.”

About “Wilsonart Challenges…”

Wilsonart sponsors the “Wilsonart Challenges…” student design scholarship program to foster the careers of emerging furniture designers in North America. Now in its 14th year, this competition challenges students at a design school to create a unique chair that uses Wilsonart® Laminate to answer a specific design challenge.

Maine College of Art was selected as one of the best schools to explore the issues surrounding wood and forests.  Known as “the Pine Tree State,” forests cover 89% of the state. Maine’s second largest industry is Forestry and Wood Products.