Rangeley Morton wants to be portable.
He’s a furniture maker who will graduate this week from Maine College of Art and the recipient of a $15,000 Windgate Fellowship, a national award given to 10 students who exemplify excellence in crafts.
Morton isn’t sure where he is going to live or what he is going to do, but he intends to use his award to buy a portable router and make furniture designed for small spaces that can be assembled and disassembled without nails, screws or fasteners.
It’s lightweight but durable: Furniture for people on the move.
Morton, from Chelmsford, Massachusetts, is the third MECA student to win a Windgate Fellowship in the nine years the program has existed. Ten fellowships are awarded each year to graduating seniors across the country. That means that of the 90 Windgate fellows, three have been MECA students.
Morton chose MECA because of Portland’s small size and the centralized location of the school. He likes being downtown and appreciates the camaraderie of the MECA community. He believes his work has benefited from his ability to focus.
When he began making furniture, Morton made what he called “monumental pieces” – large, oversized room dividers and things like that. After a while, he realized that his personal needs were compact. He decided to make furniture that could work in a dorm room or small city apartment and that would stand up to the stress and rigors of packing and moving.
Two years ago, he started sketching designs for tables, chairs and light boxes using durable plywood, lightweight corrugated plastic and other materials. He mastered the school’s CNC Router, a computer-controlled cutting machine that dominates the woodworking studio at MECA.
The router enables him to make precise cuts, which means he can design furniture that fits together like pieces of LEGOs, which he played with growing up.
His work combines digital technology with traditional skills.
“Everything I do starts with a sketchbook,” he said. “I start like any other artist. Then I move to the computer. I embrace technology but don’t depend on it.”
Examples of his work are on view in the lobby of MECA on Congress Street, along with the work of all the school’s graduating serniors. MECA graduation is Saturday at the State Theatre in Portland.
The Windgate Fellowship will allow Morton to do two things: First he is going to buy a bench-top CNC Router. It will accomplish the same thing as the big one that he has been using at MECA but will fit into the back of a car, creating a collapsible, portable workspace.
“This will allow me to cut materials down to size and make prototypes and models and allow me to continue my experimentation and exploration,” he said.
He’s also going to visit with leaders in his field on both coasts. He wants to learn about alternative materials and innovations in digital design.
His ultimate goal is to create a line of furniture that appeals to people like him: People making their way in the world who want good furniture but don’t want to be saddled with oversized tables and chairs.
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or: