Main content

Micro-Interview: Christy Oates

Q&A with Windgate Artist-in-Residence Christy Oates

Each semester, the School of Art+Design at Purchase College invites one artist-in-residence in applied design. The WAIR program provides students with access to a practicing artist, furthering Purchase College’s mission to act as a cultural resource for the exploration and exchange of ideas. Christy Oates’ work is inspired by a unique combination of digital making and traditional woodworking techniques.

1. How did you first become interested in woodworking?

I grew up with my Mom’s furniture upholstery shop in the basement of my family home and started working for her at age five. As I got older, I worked for her tearing the old upholstery off sofas and chairs. I loved seeing the guts of furniture construction. In college, I started with a degree in interior design, and then moved on to furniture design.

2. Could you briefly describe your artistic process and the challenges involved?

I’m very interested in repeating patterns. I design motifs in Rhino CAD and cut the wood using a laser cutter. The assembly process is quite tedious. All the small parts are individually taped together for layout, and then I glue the assembly onto a substrate using a vacuum bag.

3. Your work is labeled as “Digital Woodcrafting” – the combination of two seemingly opposing approaches. What are some points of friction and where do you find the most synergy?

I’ve worked both in craft and manufacturing. I like to explore the boundaries between the two. I explore craft that can be mass produced in limited production, but I also use the same manufacturing processes for one-of-a-kind artwork.

4. What sort of ideas or questions does your work address?

In some of my work, I’ve explored what happens when I let the machines make the patterns through algorithms.

5. The use of elaborate patterning and repetition in your pieces is apparent – where does this come from? Which artists, designers, or styles have influenced your work?

I’m greatly influenced by historically traditional hand-cut marquetry, as well as art deco/art nouveau patterns. I try to update traditional patterns to be more contemporary.

6. Could you share some ideas you’ve been exploring for your future projects?

Right now, I’m exploring 3D shapes from 2D patterns using bending and assembly techniques. Some of my new lamps are an example of this work.