William Keyser's walnut and leather pedestal stools were commissioned by the Women's Council of Rochester Institute of Technology in 1966. The Women's Council of RIT had been formed under the direction of Aileen Osborn Webb. They chose three professors from the School for American Craftsmen faculty to create furnishings for the new inter-faith chapel, part of the plans for the new RIT campus. The council threw a series of local benefit parties to raise money for the commission. On March 7th, 1970 a dedication ceremony with the furnishings from William Keyser, Donald Bujnowski and Hans Christensen took place to transform the Ingle Auditorium into a place of worship each weekend. Three stools have been recently re-acquired from RIT and professionally restored by the artist. The fourth stool that was made is a part of RIT's permanent "Art on Campus" collection. The stools are being offered as a set of three but can be purchased separately for $6500 each. Each stool is initialed and dated - WK '69.
Keyser wrote this about the stools, "The stools with conical bases were designed to be compatible with the altar and other sanctuary furniture in the chapel. Since there were to be four stools, I wanted a simple form so as not to clutter the space.
The construction of the stools started by making a half-conical male mold over which a half- cone of molded plywood would be formed. Three (3) layers of 1/8” thick Italian poplar bending plywood were cut to a pattern to fit over the mold. The layers were spread with glue, locater on the mold, and put into a clear plastic bag, sealed, and attached to a vacuum pump which evacuated the air from inside the bag, pulling the 3 sheets of plywood tightly against the mold and holding there until the glue dried. When removed from the bag, the three sheets retained their half-cone shape.
Next the walnut veneer was cut to triangular shapes, taped together so the final shape fit exactly the half cone. Glue was spread onto the outside of the plywood half-cone, slipped over the mold, the walnut veneer put in place over the plywood, and the whole assembly put back into the vacuum bag and evacuated. When the glue dried, the walnut veneered half-cone was removed. This was repeated two times for each stool.
Since the half-cones were formed slightly over sized, they were then trimmed to final size to fit together to make a complete cone. Groves (1/8” wide) were sawn into the vertical edges of the half-cones, fitted with splines of 1/8” plywood and the two half cones glued together. A wooden “plug” was fitted and glued into the top of the cone, drilled to receive four bolts which secured the seat. A ¾” thick rim was shaped to fit and glued inside the lower edge of the cone to receive six plastic carpet glides.
The seat consisted of two nesting layers which were similarly vacuum formed from three sheets each of bending plywood. Holes which matched those in the base were drilled through both seat layers. Threaded “Tee-Nuts” were fixed into the holes of the upper seat layer. Both layers were then upholstered with leather including a welt cord fixed around the perimeter between the layers. Four bolts then sandwiched the base and the two-layered seat together."
Brief Bio/Resume of William Keyser:
Professor Emeritus, School for American Crafts, Rochester Institute of Technology, (taught 1962 – 1997; Chairman of Crafts 1981 – 1989)
Created over 100 commissioned artworks for private or corporate clients, including over 20 public art sculptures
Executed over 160 ecclesiastical objects, including 23 complete sanctuary ensembles
Work reported in over 325 newspaper and magazine articles and featured in over 30 published books
Represented in the collections of over a dozen museums, universities and corporations including the Museum of Art and Design, ArtPark, Burchfield Penny Art Center, Carnegie Mellon University, Eastman Kodak, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester Institute of Technology, Sheldon Museum of Fine Art, State University of New York, University of Rochester
Over 100 exhibitions; juried, invitational, solo; over a dozen awards
Award of Distinction, The Furniture Society, 2003
Merit Award, Carnegie Mellon University, 1998
College of Fellows, American Craft Council, 1997
Grand Prize, Modern Liturgy Visual Arts Awards Competition, 1986
Distinguished Alumnus, Rochester Institute of Technology, 1978
National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, 1975
Ailborn Foundation Grant, 1969
Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild Second National Award, 1952
MFA, Painting and Sculpture, Rochester Institute of Technology, 2006
MFA, Furniture Design, Rochester Institute of Technology, 1961
BS, Mechanical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, 1958