Thoughts on a plywood door

If Art is an enhancement of the everyday is this door Art?

Feel the surface of the wood and breathe in the smell of wood.  Follow the grain of the wood, the imperfections, the differing tones in the colour and experience the pleasure that comes from noticing these things. Feel that strangely soft surface with your hands; the soft fuzz not yet flattened by the varnish to come – like the soft facial fuzz of your skin; consider the colour and its variations; become aware of the structure of its build, the line of screw heads that mark out the frame that lies between the skin of the ply.  Let the size of the hinges hint at the weight they hold. The hinges are magnificent, they are large, their beautiful throat is large.  They make their own statement.   The rectangular handle in satin steel complements the hinges. Notice the height of the handle. It is not set at regulation height and you must consciously raise your arm a little in order to use it. Perhaps it positions you differently in relation to the door, reminding you that a door is a tactile thing.

Having decided to replace an internal door it was important to me that the new door reflect thoughts I have about the house I live in.  This house is 1970s ex council, small and not as solid as earlier models.  The ground floor of the house had been altered and is now open plan.  This led to thinking about the construction of the whole. How some features seem a little mean, like the cavity walls that were built just slightly narrower than would accommodate insulation.  See this in contrast to the staircase, which is solid and generous.  The internal doors however are merely functional and carry an overall feeling of lack of care, of being unnoticed. These doors are mass produced, inexpensive and, although adequate, perhaps easily damaged.   This is evidenced by one door upstairs that shows the mark of a boot.  I suspect a little violence in its history.

Should not an object that is as important to the life of a house as a door deserve better?  Artists, architects, designers, have always considered our environment, questioning how we use or abuse it.  Art and life are inextricably linked; think of the arts and craft movement, de Stijl and the Bauhaus.  Modernist architects, like them or not, were also interested in developing the spaces we live in, mixing art and life.  An internal door in the house le Corbusier designed for himself was tall and wide, a part of the whole wall as well as an opening.  And now the new turner prizewinners, Assemble, a cross-disciplinary collective of artists, designers and architects, who have won a major art prize yet do not consider themselves artists. Or are they?  Everyone mixing art and life.

The places we live in speak of who we are, what we care about, and a door, it seemed to me, could have a story to tell.

So the door.  Made, built, constructed by a craftsman.  A carpenter, someone who loves wood, knows wood, knows how to build, to make, to construct a door.  A hands-on skill.  All this feeds into the story.  Examine this door and it will tell you more.  You will see how it was made and what it was made of.   It was made of plywood.  Plywood is a basic economic and ecological material, it shows its structure and you can see the layers that attest to how it was made.  It is ‘everyday’, has many uses and comes in different grades. It is unassuming, unpretentious and beautiful. To have a door that revealed how it was made, made of a wood that revealed how it was made, fitted in with the wider concept of the house as structure revealed, the house as installation, and the house as function.  The house as a site for art.

A pencil mark notes where measurement was made.  A kink in the frame will mark the point of a knot in the wood.  Being able to read how this door was constructed adds to the pleasure of this functional object.  The outer edge of the softwood frame is visible when you open the door, so too are the layers of 12 mm plywood either side of the frame.   Three layers to each sheet of ply thereby marking its own construction.  Screw heads testify to the structure of the hidden part of the frame where they fix the plywood outer skin to the pine frame within.  A visual reference connecting this modern door to doors in time past.  The ‘threshold’ lies at the top of the door along the ceiling mirroring the ‘threshold’ and the door on the floor above.  The ground floor flows uninterrupted beneath the door.

This door is not the readymade of Duchamp that is taken out of its original context in order to see it differently or to question what art is.   It is the desire to value the everyday object – a strong theme throughout the story of contemporary art – and in turn to value and think differently about the places and spaces we inhabit.  This door is connected to ideas of art and architecture and the sheer pleasure to be had in a well-crafted functional object in everyday use.

The aesthetic comes from the materials used and the function of the object; from following the theme of construction and functionality, from valuing skill, craft and the ecological aspect of materials. If art is an enhancement of the everyday then for me this door is art.

Helen Marland February 2016

Published by southamptoncarpenter

Traditional standards. Traditional tradesman. Traditional service. I have been a carpenter for over 45years, 5 year apprenticeship as a boat builder, 2 years as a wood machinist, then a spell repairing furniture and manufacturing reproduction antique clocks. I spent a further 15 years working in a therapeutic environment passing on my skills, before setting myself up as a self-employed carpenter/joiner. As you will appreciate, I undertake a wide range of projects, so scrolling through the site map may well direct you to past work that may be similar to your requirements. The preferred way to contact me is by using the contact page on this site. However you can always ring me during normal working hours. Lead times vary depending on the time of year; small jobs I can often do promptly. I cover Southampton and I am also happy to visit Winchester and Salisbury areas, but a small fee will be charged.

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