ISU student selected as NICHE Magazine Awards finalist for chair design


Courtesy George Ensley

Adirondack was created by senior Eric Rolek of integrated studio arts. After making it for a class he submitted it and was selected as a NICHE Magazine Awards finalist.

Antonia Hutzell

What started out as a class assignment for ISU senior Eric Rolek soon turned into a piece that would win him recognition.

Rolek, major in integrated studio arts, was assigned to re-create or redesign a traditional, well-known chair for his integrated studio arts furniture class.

He chose to redesign a chair that resembled a traditional outdoors chair called the Adirondack.

“I went with Adirondack because it’s a really well-known chair and no one else in the class did it,” Rolek said. “I had some ideas to redesign the shape. Instead of using wood for the seats I used rope. It makes it more comfortable.”

The original Adirondack chair is a simple wooden chair known for its wide arm rests and horizontal back.

Rolek changed the design by using cypress wood and polypropylene rope. He mentioned that he kept the original name so people would be able to recognize it from its traditional shape and form.

Christopher Martin, associate professor of integrated studio arts, said “He took the traditional chair and switched it by using the rope. He took the idea and ran with it. It’s unique and comfortable.”

Martin assisted Rolek with the design, material choices and the engineering to make sure it was stable.

After eight weeks of working on his assignment, Rolek decided to enter his chair into The NICHE Magazine Awards and got accepted as a finalist.

“I saw a poster in the design building for The NICHE Magazine Awards, and I just submitted it on my own. It’s awesome to see that I got accepted. I got chosen out of 600 people,” Rolek said.

Each year, the NICHE Magazine hosts The NICHE Magazine Awards. NICHE Magazine is a creative magazine that connects and celebrates art galleries and craft makers in Canada and throughout the United States. The magazine showcases craft works and shares art gallery stories.

“It’s a pretty big deal. He’s competing with students from schools all around the country,” Martin said.

The entry process included filling out an application, entering photographs and paying an entry fee. From there, the judges based their scores on technical excellence and a distinct quality of uniqueness and creative thought. The judges are selected by the NICHE Magazine’s editors.

In January, Rolek will be going to The NICHE Awards ceremony at the American Made Show in Pennsylvania where each finalist will have their piece on display.

“This is the biggest show I’ve been in, so I’m really excited,” Rolek said.

At this ceremony, the winners will be announced and will receive a trophy, a listing on the NICHE Awards website and a listing in the NICHE Magazine.

This is Rolek’s first time having his work published on national websites. His redesign of Adirondack can be found on national websites such as the NICHE website and on Pinterest.

Aside from making wood furniture, Rolek also blows glass and makes ceramic sculptures. He has even sold some of his ceramic sculptures at the art sale put on by the College of Design.

Rolek’s piece, Adirondack, has also been shown in other exhibits such as the Biennial Community of Artist Exhibit at the Octagon Center for the Arts in Ames, where he received third place.