Forms Inspired by the Flow of Nature

General / People / Products / November 28, 2011

He may be trained as a designer, but Sean O’Hara thinks like a sculptor.

The 1996 industrial design graduate from the Rhode Island School of Design went to Austria for graduate studies, then settled in at Dansk, designing flatware, cookware and tabletop products in a variety of materials.

In 2002 he set up his own studio.

“I don’t like to limit myself to one scale,” he says.  “I like exploring forms with the intent and goal of developing and discovering something new in clay and wood.  I like applying these forms to functions as I see fit.”

That would mean spoons, bowls, chairs and tables, all lyrically bent to the shapes of a naturalist’s imagination.

He counts among his role models the German-French sculptor Jean Arp, the Romanian Constantin Brancusi and the Englishman Henry Moore.  But he thinks in a more sustainable way.

“Many of the large wooden sculptures Moore, Noguchi and Brancusi carved were shaped from a single block of wood taken from an enormous tree,” he says. “I would love to work this way, but our generation cannot – we need to think differently.”

His challenge in designing large sculptural pieces is to use as little wood as possible, while mimicking a large-scale carving, without being wasteful or depending on behemoth pieces of wood.  Glued together, the individual elements are very small, many of them scraps from other projects.

And his inspiration comes from a respect for the outdoors as well.  “My forms are drawn from what I find in nature, and from being outside,” he says.  “The wooden pieces are about the fluid dynamics of water movements.”

He works in wood are primarily in pine, teak and kamper, all readily available, plantation- raised and sustainable.  They’re designed and made by hand with a target of producing hundreds, rather than for mass-production in a factory.  Most are crafted in Indonesia.

But it’s the creative process that’s most important to this artisan.  “It’s a real thrill to discover a new form that people have never seen before,” he says.

For more on O’Hara Studio, go to

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Mike Welton

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1 Comment

on November 28, 2011

Great article, congrats Sean!

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