The question I'm asked most frequently is "where do all the boxes come from?" Usually they come from eBay. Sometimes I build them. I wish I had more time to go through antique stores, but I don't. Instead, I have friends like nosey5526 and contrarymary047 who do that for me.
William wants to know how I pick boxes. So:
To make the cut, a box has to be divided in correct proportions (more about that later) and have character. If it doesn't have dividers but does have character, I'll add my own dividers.
This is the perfect box. The dividers are interesting and it has lots of character.
This is also a great box, but I'll have to divide the space myself into the right proportions. To do that I use math. I hope you'll stay with me on this because once you see how it works you'll see the entire world with new eyes.
The Golden Ratio is a way of dividing space in the most aesthetically pleasing way to the human brain. Mathematicians use this formula:
What's amazing about this formula is that if you use it to divide a rectangle into a square and a rectangle, then rectangle is yet another golden rectangle. You can keep going forever.
This pattern repeats itself in nature so often that it pretty much bonked early mathematicians over the head. The Golden Ratio has been employed in art and architecture since 300 B.C. (You may have heard this called the Fibonacci Spiral or the Fibonacci Sequence. It's that too.)
Today everyone from graphic designers, artists and photographers to interior designers and engineers use the Golden Ratio in their work. It's even been used in making startlingly accurate predictions about financial markets.
Now - back to our empty box.
I need to divide the box into two sections in such a way that they will be aesthetically pleasing to the brain. I measure the length of the box so I can solve for a and b.
Then I do the math longhand on paper.
Just kidding. I use an online calculator. I plug in the total length of the box, 14", and the calculator tells me how to divide the rectangle into two sections.
Then I mark it with tape. Let's see if it worked:
The first two boxes just "feel" right. Something "feels" off with the third. With the Golden Ratio we know what's wrong. Without the Golden Ratio, we just know it's not pretty. By now I can usually eyeball the Golden Ratio of a box. (Most photographers can too because they have to compose a photo on the fly.) However, if I get into a composition and it isn't coming alive, I know my math is off.
Let's see how this one turned out - so far at least:
And how about the other one? I actually divided the long bottom section in two using the Golden Ratio, otherwise the visual energy of that space would have overwhelmed the piece.
Here's the finished work:
Without math, I'd just be guessing about how to compose a piece of art. It might take days of trial and error, being frustrated and wasting materials before I accidentally landed on the right proportions.