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Laura Kishimoto's Fine-Art Furniture



Photo: Mark Woolcott

Laura Kishimoto speaks softly and wields sharp scissors. With them she cuts a snowstorm of white paper strips, and then she tinkers. Her inspiration emerges from all over the place—geometry, origami, a canyon, or cathedral arches—and then she plays with her strips until something clicks. The end result is definitely a work of art, and usually a piece of furniture that lives somewhere between fine art and function. “You could sit in it,” she says, “but you probably wouldn’t want to.”

The 24-year-old Kishimoto grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts, where she started painting and drawing lessons around the age of 3. Petite, ponytailed, and surrounded by baskets of paper models in her Denver studio, she makes it easy to believe that she was president of her high school Origami Club. But it wasn’t until she attended the Rhode Island School of Design that Kishimoto realized working in the arts could be a viable career.


Two looks at the ash veneer and steel Saji chair

She applied to the famous arts institution on a whim, submitting a portfolio consisting of drawing challenges and some high school artwork, but says, “Painting and drawing always felt like a shot in the dark. When I started working in 3-D, something really clicked.”

Upon graduation, Kishimoto apprenticed in Ireland before moving to Denver for job-related opportunities (she loves Colorado’s hot springs and climate). To support her creative endeavors, Kishimoto works at Flitch Studios, a manufacturing and design workshop in Wheat Ridge, and at Red Rocks Community College as a teaching assistant.


Three views of Kisimoto's Yumi Chair II, also made from ash veneer and mild steel

Kishimoto’s process starts with her trusty strips. She then uses staples, tape, or glue to create paper models, sometimes completely trashing them in the midst of creation. Once a form seems viable, she moves to wood—usually ash because of its forgiving and highly bendable qualities—twisting and manipulating strips to mock up the shape before making full-scale models. That process requires molds, vacuum pumps, and compressors.

“The main reason why I don’t focus on functionality is that the world is filled with people who can make more comfortable chairs than I can.” — Laura Kishimoto

Her designs run the gamut from sculpture to chairs, stools, cabinets, and even a flower box that owes much to a tulip. If Kishimoto had a trademark, it would be a combination of movement and the unexpected. Stare at one of her pieces and it makes sense that she admits to creating beauty and form for its own sake. “The main reason why I don’t focus on functionality is that the world is filled with people who can make more comfortable chairs than I can,” she says. “My strength and passion lies in creating beautiful and uninhibited forms. Furniture is just the medium I work in.”

See more of her work at kishimotodesign.com.

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