For my junior course on product realization, I was tasked to prototype, design, and manufacture an object of personal significance. This project was the most ambitious and challenging I've ever worked on, but I'm proud to say I created a one of a kind table that is both functional and elegant.
This table is constructed out of mild steel and walnut, treated with mineral oil and sanded by hand. The beginning of this process involved a series of design sketches and critiques until I landed on a unique design. After conducting CAD analysis, I spent 3 weeks learning TIG welding and tube bending processes.
[March 2019] Two months ago, I talked to my brother about the concept of failure. He told me something that I don’t think I will ever forget: “When you fail, a part of you dies in the process. The part of you that is afraid or weak or naive gets left behind. The person remaining after is much stronger and wiser and ready to face the world.” Throughout this table-making process, I have found this to be spot on.I originally sought out to make a bedside table for my brother as a housewarming gift— he just graduated college and got his first apartment. I would describe our brotherhood as a Yin and Yang dynamic, as we have many opposing but complimentary qualities. I challenged myself to represent this dynamic in the design of the table. The outset of this project would be brotherhood, but the journey was about perseverance and embracing failure.
Failure came in many forms throughout this process. I didn’t know how to weld. I didn’t know how to bend steel tubing. I didn’t know how to work with wood. And I didn’t have the time I wanted to to acquire these skills—I was out of town on 6 trips this quarter for track and field competitions. I often thought there was no possible way I could get this project done. Many times I would think, “Why the hell am I making this table?” But I reminded myself of my brother’s words. I will inevitably fail in the process, but the person who comes out on the other side will be able to make this table. So, I put my head down and failed every day until I got closer to manifesting what I sought out to make. Week 8 had arrived, and I genuinely had nothing tangible to show for my work. There were no legs, there was no frame, and there wasn’t even a functional design for a table. All I had was this image in my head of what I wanted my table to look like and a willingness to keep failing. I’d be lying if I said I knew things would work out at this point, but my vision of what this table would look like pushed me past the doubt.
This process was quite possibly the hardest thing I’ve done in my life, yet I also think it was one of my greatest achievements. Even though I will give this table to my brother, I didn’t make this table for him. I made this table for myself. I made this table to see if I could overcome my own doubts, fears, inabilities, and constraints. I made this table to see if I can make my abstract ideas tangible. I made this table to see if I could be a kick- ass furniture designer. I ultimately failed at all of these things, but I can proudly say the person that emerged after these failures eventually succeeded.