Imagine sitting on a great piece of furniture. What is it made of? Wood? Leather? I bet you did not imagine that the piece of furniture you are sitting on was made of corrugated medium, which is most often recognized as cardboard. Dr. Andrew Hurley, assistant professor of packaging science and his team of Creative Inquiry students work together to create unique furniture by using corrugated medium. Corrugated medium is strong when the pieces are put together, so the team works with multiple pieces, layering them, to build furniture. “We have created a corrugated piano, chairs, tables, a tiger paw and lots of decorations that have been placed around the Harris A. Smith Building,” Mengmeg Zhao, senior packaging science major, stated.
Designing corrugated furniture requires a plan as to how to divide the whole furniture into a variety of components. For example, to design a table, the team first divides the table into a top and legs; they then design the layers for each part using Adobe Illustrator and cut each layer using the Kongsberg (a high-powered milling spindle often used to cut signs). The last step is to glue the layers together and assemble the parts as whole furniture. This Creative Inquiry encourages creativity and sustainability. The team can create unique pieces by using corrugated medium, which means less wood consumption and an increased environmental benefit. Due to the unique features of corrugated board, the furniture can be crazy shapes, not just tradition pieces.
The process is different from making wooden furniture. Each part of this furniture is built with multiple layers of corrugated board; thus, the team must carefully and purposefully decide on the size for each layer. If they need a straight line on the final piece of furniture, they must build each layer to the same size specifications and put them together. Inn contrast, if they need a curve on the furniture, they must make a small change on each layer of corrugated board in order to get a curve after all layers are assembled. This is difficult to plan in advance, so some of the process is by trial and error. Also, the team must consider how many layers will be needed in order to support the weight of a person.
For the team, the most excitng part of this project is to assemble the small pieces of corrugated board to create whole pieces of furniture. This is when the team learns if their designs work or need to be changed. Brainstorming with the team is an enjoyable part of the Creative Inquiry because students can devise truly unique ideas. Everyone builds on each others ideas which will finally form a brilliant plan. The final result is useful, trendy and environmentally-friendly furniture for the future.
Barbara J. Speziale