What does it take to produce strong design? It might take a strong idea, a well thought-out answer to a desire, or even a meaningful personal story. For Ryan Dart, owner and principal designer of Bones Studio in Raleigh, North Carolina, it just happens to be all three.
Dart, who worked for almost a decade and a half as an industrial designer, then as a furniture designer, now uses his varied experiences to manufacture distinctive pieces for clients who desire something different. His works range in size from skinny to corpulent, but there’s a still common theme which he has thread through them all. A theme inspired by his upbringing in Vernal, Utah.
“I grew up near a dinosaur bone quarry. There they would put together new species of dinosaurs from the bones that were excavated,” he reminisces. “After the skeleton (was) put together they would try to figure out what the dinosaur actually looked like and how it moved and survived.”
The word “bones” relates to that which is within, the internal framework separate from the soul and spirit. Typically, in both living creatures and furniture, the bones are concealed by an external skin. For Dart, however, there’s a special appeal to leaving the bones of his pieces exposed.
If you imagine a simple wooden chair or bench, its rigid structure is apparent, and yet that doesn’t stop people from sitting on it. Dart uses that excepted experience to create furniture that has curvaceous forms without cushions or upholstery. If people don’t have a problem sitting on the exposed structure of a chair or a bench, then they shouldn’t have one sitting on the exposed structure of a sofa, either.
“My pieces are like a skeleton. When they are looked upon people try to figure out how they are made, what is the implied form, why does it look like it is alive?” he says. “The beauty of the pieces are internalized by the viewer’s imagination.” In May 2019, that curiosity is exactly what led many attendees to stop, look, feel, and experience his work firsthand at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York.
Of the four collections of furniture that Bones Studio manufactures, none is as comfortable or as popular as “Quarry.” Ironically, each piece in this collection has a smoothness to its surface, even though half of those surfaces are made up of nothing but voids. Better than the bones of a dinosaur, or even the human body, the closeness the Quarry collection’s bones and their geometric intimacy suggests a skin while enhancing their core strength.
“When looking at various pieces in the flesh, they calm my soul,” admits Dart. “I don’t know if it is because of my internal fight to design the piece is over or that I am lost in the rhythm of the piece.” We are familiar with exposed structure in architecture, infrastructure, and even interior design, but Bones Studio takes it even further, turning the structure into the skin.
Dart muses: “The idea of creating a volume or form from flat substrate is not a new idea. But [in terms of] the complexity and design that has emerged from the form, this is something nobody has seen before.”
Watch this short video of Dart discussing the thinking and process behind his work: