BY NANCY R. HILLER
Furniture designer Vincent Edwards lives in a world where the usual constraints of form and function don’t run the show. In Edwards’ hands, a delicate wall cabinet constructed of wood and fabric calls to mind a glowing chrysalis, and the fluid lines of a glass-topped coffee table evoke marine forms: a ship, or perhaps a whale.
Less than two years after his 2012 graduation with an M.F.A. in furniture design from IUPUI’s Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis, Edwards, 33, is receiving national attention for his work.
Students at Herron have opportunities to compete for real-world commissions through the school’s Basile Center for Art, Design and Public Life. Edwards submitted a design for a sinuous wooden bench for consideration by architects working on the new Indiana University Health Neuroscience Center in Indianapolis and won the commission. He built the 20-foot-long IU Health bench from Baltic birch plywood with a clear finish.
The Herron faculty was so impressed by Edwards’ bench that they nominated it to the Furniture Society’s Faculty Selects Awards, a nationwide competition open to graduate students in furniture design programs. Edwards won first place, garnering more national attention.
The native of Killingworth, Connecticut, came to furniture making via Indiana University’s Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts, where he earned a B.F.A. in printmaking in 2007. With a passionate interest in furniture, he decided to apply to the program at Herron. First, however, he needed to gain what he calls “some real-world shop skills.” He earned those by working at Clarity Designs, a Bloomington custom furniture and cabinet-making company.
When Edwards entered the Herron program in 2010, he quickly distinguished himself — not just through his artistry, but also through his skill in using computer-aided design (CAD). He explains: “The program creates a model that exists in three dimensions on the screen, so you can measure anything and everything you need. It’s all there.” Well, “all there” aside from the actual materials, not to mention Edwards’ meticulous craftsmanship.
More recently, Edwards was chosen as the 2014 Philadelphia Invitational Furniture Show’s top Emerging Artist, winning the opportunity to exhibit his work at his first national show. Not surprisingly, he came away with another commission.
Nancy R. Hiller is a designer and cabinetmaker and an award-winning author/editor of several books on design and historic preservation.