Stephen marking up a cut line  (photo: George Sinclair)

29.03.15 | timber fabrication

Day One of the AA / RCA Visiting School has been written up by Zina, a graduate of the University of Montreal, who grew up Casablanca. She’ll be visiting London for a few weeks after the workshop, before heading back to Canada…

What would be better than beginning the workshop’s first day with a Tai chi course given by Chi Lam! There were supposed to be thirteen of us but only five of us (strangely all the girls) were awake for it. The exercise was very good and relaxing, but as we were all beginners, each movement took us five minutes to learn instead of one minute practicing. Thank you for your patience Chi Lam! Our first breakfast together was the perfect occasion to talk about what had to be done during the day and to divide the tasks. While Jia, Elizabeth and Chi Lam will be working on the Rhino file for the CNC machine, two groups – Stephen, George and Gabriella on one side and Giulio, Taek and myself on the other – will cut the 75mm x 200mm lengths into 1540mm long pieces with Alex’s and Nigel’s help. It seemed to be an easy task or so we thought…

After Guan explained to us how the workshop was organised with its machines, emergency exits and first-aid kits, we started working. We quickly realised how difficult it was. The timber is green (still wet), and it had many knots. Obviously, to have the best structural components we were asked to be careful not to cut too close to a knot! We were aware we were not organised in the best way: the measurements were messy and the manual cutting required much more time than expected. Only 15 pieces were done in the morning.

In the afternoon, Jia and Clem (the first cooks) were supposed to prepare lunch, but the CNC group was so busy that Jia only had time to help Clem in chopping some peppers and laying the table. Clem made us an amazing meal: pesto pasta and a very tasty dish made with pepper, tomato, olive oil and garlic.  After that, the work went much faster: the groups were more interchangeable and the workshop cutting became better organized: Alex, Guilio, George and I were measuring and cutting the timber, while Gabriella, Stephen and Taek were sanding and polishing the wood. Even though the assembly was by the rest of the group. We did a quite good job! At the same time, Clem and Ivar (who had joined us for the weekend) were thinking about the joints and how everything would be assembled.

In the evening, Azusa Murakami and Alexander Groves from Studio Swine gave us a very interesting lecture. They travel around the world for their work and try to recycle local materials to create all kinds of furniture and objects. For example, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, they recycled beer cans to make unique chairs. The most impressive thing was the fact that the machine they created for it was also completely made from recycled materials. In China, they figured out how to create domestic products incorporating human hairs. It seemed to be a disgusting thought at first but after seeing their work it was not at all! By combining human hair with a natural resin, they were able to create diverse colorful products. Their work is impressive and very inspiring! For dinner, Nigel’s family came over because it was his wife Sherry’s birthday. Guan cooked for more than 20 people. He made an incredible Asian meal with all kinds of vegetables, meat for meat-lovers and fish for fish-lovers! We all agreed that the diner was a great success!

That concludes a great first day! I am confident that all the following days will be just as enjoyable an experience.