Material Innovations – Tansu Exhibition

11 October 2011 Posted by Alexander

In September 2011 I did a special exhibition at Serindia Gallery in Bangkok in collaboration with my friends Robert Piccus and Shane Suvikapakornkul, owner of the gallery.  It was a special evening that highlighted some innovative craftsmanship that I am extremely proud of and thought it was worth sharing again here.

While Bob was exhibiting his exquisite Tibetan carpets and new book Sacred & Secular: The Piccus Collection of Tibetan Rugs, I was privileged to showcase some special innovative work we had long been nurturing.  In our workshop we are continuously developing and refining innovative new techniques for working with some of the world’s most beautiful and versatile natural materials. We took the simple form of the traditional Japanese tansu chest with its formal metalwork, and applied mirror-smooth gold, deep red cinnabar lacquer, sunken shagreen, silver straw, ivory sheets, lacquered shell and gilded coromandel to its many surfaces. Many of the techniques we used build upon methods developed during the early 20th century by seminal designers such as Jean Dunand and Eileen Gray, who first had been instructed and inspired by traditional Japanese masters in lacquering techniques. We experimented with gesso, shagreen, straw inlay, natural lacquers, gold and silver leaf and powder to add to and innovate the whole effect and finish of each piece of furniture being shown. All pieces are one-off editions and were for sale at the show.

It was a profound and humbling experience for us to work so intensively with these slow, monastic materials: the careful work of many hands over many days, weeks and months has been invested into each surface of each cabinet, resulting in an astonishing alchemy of material, tone, reflectivity and texture combined with a deeply human sense of craftsmanship. It is very rare to find in contemporary furniture this attention to detail, depth and patience. The search for such work is the very reason I established my company, and in some ways this show was a marking point for the achievements we have made.

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