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Pirates and spiders inspire Herron furniture designer

Jul 10, 2018

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Video transcript

“Creative furniture with Herron professor Katie Hudnall” video on 


[Video: Shots of the Herron Furniture Design studio with sound of a saw]

[Words appear: IUPUI Presents]

[Video: Katie Hudnall manipulates a new piece of her design.]

[Hudnall speaks: There we go.]

[Words appear: Katie Hudnall, Assistant professor of furniture design]

[Hudnall speaks: The whole idea of the machine is just to get two people to look at each other, eye to eye. And you’re upside-down and you’re kind of, it’s a very funny way of looking at somebody. So, it’s supposed to make it fun and sort of give you an excuse to do something fun and weird while making eye contact with somebody else.

And it was in grad school that I stopped trying to make things with sort of a fine woodworking aesthetic.]

[Video: Shots of Hudnall’s sculpture, “Spider Leg Lamp.”]

[Words appear: “Spider Leg Lamp”]

[Hudnall speaks: And started trying to make things that I drew them. And I’ve always drawn things in this kind of Edward Gorey style where everything is articulated, you can kind of see all the nails.

You can see all the wood grain, you can see all the joinery of how things are put together.]

[Video: Shots of “Side Table, Red”]

[Words appear: “Side Table, Red”]

[Hudnall speaks: And when I realized that I could actually literally build the way that I was drawing things, everything sort of made more sense. My drawing practice and my building practice kind of came together for the first time.

Herron’s furniture design program is really beautifully kind of centered in an art school. And I think that’s one of the things that make it so great and so unique. Our students come to us with a really wide range of skills and interests. Some of them wanna make sculpture, but using some craft techniques or woodworking techniques that are more furnitural.

And some of them want to make true furniture, but they wanna bring in design that feels really unique and fresh. And we’re trying to sort of marry all of those in this room.]

[Words appear: IUPUI Fulfilling the Promise,]


[End of transcript]

“Spider Leg Lamp” by Katie Hudnall

One of Katie Hudnall’s two pieces in the current Herron School of Art and Design Biennial Faculty Exhibition had nightmarish inspiration.

“I moved into a place that was infested with brown recluses, which are poisonous spiders as it turns out,” said Hudnall, an assistant professor in furniture design at the Herron School. “In an effort to make friends with the population, I built them a table.”

After calling the exterminator, Hudnall sketched out “Spider Leg Lamp,” which stands on eight spindly legs. The thin pieces of reclaimed wood for the lamp were extracted from a mahogany pallet. The base was from an old, destroyed piano.

Katie Hudnall manipulates
Katie Hudnall, an assistant professor in furniture design at the Herron School of Art and Design, manipulates her new creation, “The Seeing Machine.”Photo by Liz Kaye, IU Communications

“Spider Leg Lamp” and many more pieces can be viewed in the faculty exhibition through Aug. 29 in the main gallery of Eskenazi Hall. A public closing reception will take place from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 29.

Hudnall’s drawing talents were cultivated before her first time at a table saw. But once she tried to build the whimsical creations from her sketchbook, she was hooked.

“When I realized that I could literally build the way I was drawing things, everything made sense,” she said. “My drawing practice and my building practice came together for the first time.”

In most of Hudnall’s work – including her second piece in the exhibition “Side Table, Red” – she prefers to show the fasteners, screws, nails and hinges. The articulation adds to the overall texture and mood of the work.

Many of her furniture creations also feature glass “portholes.”

“I like making them in cabinets in particular because there is the public exterior and the private interior,” she said. “I like to give people a surprise, and I like to hint at that surprise.

“It makes you want to know what’s going on inside. It’s like an invitation to go into the piece. So that’s where that comes from. That and a love for pirates.”

Hudnall’s art is in galleries or collections across the nation. The latest, “The Seeing Machine,” was shipped to the Contemporary Craft gallery in Pittsburgh this summer. She has been featured in magazines and conferences, but participating in the Biennial Faculty Exhibition proves to her students that she can practice what she teaches.

“We show the students that we’re working artists,” Hudnall said. “We go home at night and work just as hard as they do to get our work made and to get it shown.”

A detail within
This detail shot of “The Seeing Machine” shows Katie Hudnall’s creative approach to furniture design.Photo by Liz Kaye, IU Communications


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Tim Brouk

Internal Communications Specialist, IUPUI

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