UC Berkeley News


The welder
Aisha Hamilton

| 13 September 2006

For Aisha Hamilton, one of the challenges of being an artist and furniture designer is that her final product doesn't always reflect her initial idea. "Once you start fabricating a piece of furniture, technically it may not work or hold the way you thought it would," reveals Hamilton, whose day job is designing exhibits, graphics, and signage at Doe Library.

Aisha Hamilton (inset by Wendy Edelstein; large photo courtesy Aisha Hamilton)

Five years ago, Hamilton took a class in MIG-welding, a process whereby an aluminum-alloy wire fueled by a positive current sprays droplets of metal to create a bond. In that class she began working on her first piece of furniture, a chair made from steel tubing, with rubber truck ties for the seat and back supports and a cushion fashioned from a leather trench coat she found in a thrift store. "My goal," she says, "is to make things from found objects or materials you wouldn't expect to see on a piece of furniture."

Hamilton was recently commissioned to custom-design a chair, and is using her first chair as a prototype. While hewing closely to the original design, she plans to incorporate wood and swap in stainless steel for the original steel.

It's easy to see Hamilton's modernist sensibilities in her work — she admires Frank Lloyd Wright's furniture as well as designs from the 1940s and '50s, and favors straight lines with few flourishes.

"You can look at a piece of furniture that may be aesthetically pleasing," she says, "but when you sit on it, it's like sitting on a rock. I want to create furniture that's comfortable and looks good."

Hamilton is trying to learn the business side of being an artist, so she can not only make pieces but get them into stores. "I don't necessarily consider this a hobby," she says. "I hope it creates a future."

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