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Christina Fesmire's Swing and a Hit

Christina Fesmire, an industrial design graduate from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, created the "Fugle Swing." Intrigued by the swing's nod to Scandinavian bentwood design and the fact that this was a student project, I asked her about her design inspiration, how her training influenced her aesthetic, her fabrication techniques, and the one question all students love to get: what comes next? Here's what Ms. Fesmire has to say.

The "Fugle" swing is inspired by Scandinavian bentwood design. The seat is made out of maple and walnut and the rope is natural hemp. Photo courtesy of Christina Fesmire.
The "Fugle" swing is inspired by Scandinavian bentwood design. The seat is made out of maple and walnut and the rope is natural hemp. Photo courtesy of Christina Fesmire.

What designers are you most influenced by?
I spent a substantial amount of time studying at the Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture in Copenhagen, and found myself submerged in the culture of Scandinavian design. The subtlety and quality of fine line and curvature derived from the designers of that region represent a heightened level of awareness. This encompasses not only aesthetics, but sustainability and material usage—overall.
How has being a student in Pratt's Industrial Design program impacted you as a designer?
Pratt was founded upon the principles of Bauhaus theory. Rowena Reed, a prominent figure in design history founded the three-dimensional teachings of universal hierarchy of form—dominant, subdominant and subordinate form interactions— which can be found in everything we examine through our surroundings. In my opinion—after having collaborated with many other industrial design schools—Pratt is particularly strong in helping students in see and discover this vision.
How did the idea for the swing come about?
I was intrigued with the impacts emerging from Scandinavia in the twentieth century and I wanted to bring this fascination closer to my image what a swing for adults could be. The practical issue of comfort and my aesthetic determined the overall shape.

The swing's seat gradually tapers from the center to the ends. Photo courtesy of Christina Fesmire.
The swing's seat gradually tapers from the center to the ends. Photo courtesy of Christina Fesmire.

What materials did you use and why?
The materials that form the swing are sustainably produced with renewable maple veneer, which is used as the core material throughout. A single darker toned sheet of laminate has been pressed directly into the center of the molded material, allowing for a more defined curve in profile.
Can you talk a little bit about how you fabricated the swing?
The mold itself was made from manipulating sheet metal to the desired shape. To accurately flex and form the veneer material to the metal mold, a pipe is placed within the crevice, and the veneer is vacuum formed with heat. In this process of lamination, running long and short fibers of wood sheeting in opposite directions, creates a durable structure.

A layer of adhesive is coated between the each ply. The thickest portion of the seat is its center, and measures approximately 2cm—1cm thicker than the tips—allowing for visual fluidity. In order to achieve this tapered effect in the lamination process, I had to stagger the veneer material at incrementally increased lengths.
How did you arrive at the shape for the swing's seat?
The shape was derived as an evolution of an original two-part concept: to simplify and create visual fluidity, and create anatomical comfort. I combined the pieces arriving at a seamless transition and flow of form.

A detail of the curve in the center of the swing. Photo courtesy of Christina Fesmire.
A detail of the curve in the center of the swing. Photo courtesy of Christina Fesmire.

And the the rope suspending the seat?
In staying consistent with the use of natural and sustainable materials, the walnut inlay defines where the natural hemp rope suspensions meet the seat, creating a subtle contrast in material. The ‘handlebars’ of the swing were designed to seamlessly begin and end using a Danish technique called ‘splejsning,’ which is a method of pulling apart and rejoining fibers of the rope.
What's comes next? Do you have plans to market the swing?
I've had many requests for distribution of this product and am now in the process of identifying manufacturers and cost efficient fabrication techniques. I am extremely enthusiastic about bringing this to fruition, and would welcome any ideas or suggestions.

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