The Butterfly’s Wings

28 July 2018 Posted by Alexander Lamont

This is the story behind Alexander Lamont’s newest collection of furniture pieces inspired by the shimmering intricacy of a butterfly’s wings. Lepidoptera is quite a mouthful, but it was this order of insects that was an important inspiration for the our INTARSIA collection that was shown in Los Angeles in March at West Week and in Milan in April at Fuorisalone.

Butterflies and moths are part of the order of Lepidoptera. The term means ‘scaly wings’ and relates to the fact that, when viewed under magnification, the wonderful iridescent wings of these insects are in fact made up of thousands of tiny scales or tiles of light-reflecting material. The powder that flies about if you pick up a butterfly are these tiny tiles.

A butterfly wing under high magnification showing the tiny light-reflecting scales. 

To make furniture inspired by the fluttering beauty of a moth’s wing requires having materials with the same magical quality. I sketched and sketched thinking of ways to balance the materials within forms and structures that would allow them to fly.

I think of my materials as iridescent and luminous: the beautiful straw that shines and seems to move beneath the light; the layered nacre of abalone or mother-of-pearl; coppers patinated in varying shades of verdigree; figured woods with their rippling tiger-stripes; mineral mica with its shimmering, scaly quality…. Natural materials have an authenticity that communicate to our eyes and touch their exquisite imperfection and the subtle energy of their creation.

The Prism Sideboard is raised on bronze feet and with bronze hardware created for the piece. The top ledge and entire back uses fumed curly eucalyptus veneer; it is warm and dark, smokey and gorgeously reflective as are most figured woods. Figuring is a mysterious process believed to be caused by the wind blowing and constantly shaking the tree. As a result the otherwise straight grain becomes shaken into stripes that have depth and movement. Such veneers are highly prized by fine furniture makers.

Prism Sideboard.
Straw Marquetry, Shell, Patinated Copper, Bronze, Fumed Figured Eucalyptus, Figured Maple. 
Centimetres: W 170 cm, D 52.5 cm, H 83 cm / Inches: W 66 7/8 inch.,  D 20 5/8 inch., H 32 5/8 inch.

The doors and sides of the Prism employ a new material: an inlay of straw marquetry in indigo blue and burnished metal tones which has been further inlaid with abalone, mother-of-pearl and patinated copper elements. The function of these small additions is to bring notes of shine and light to the piece alongside the chevrons going back and forth that give dimensionality.

A butterfly wing is not experienced as excessive. It is a delightful flash of light. This is what I wanted to achieve by using warm woods and bronze with the ‘wings’ of shimmering material robing the centre of the piece, that moves and changes subtly in different lights. Inside, the shelves and deep drawers are of figured Maple – pale and reflective as a note of light within the mood of the exterior. 

The Cicada Bar Cabinet is a very literal expression of my fascination with the winged beauty of butterflies. Not only is the front built of tiles of iridescent mica but the mighty bronze handle is a sculpture of our brand logo – the cicada, with its beautiful armoured body and wide filament wings. The base of the cabinet is also a bronze structure that gently alludes to the natural environment in its wrapped and textured elements.

A bar cabinet is best used in the evening where friends gather. Like the Prism, the outside is dark fumed wood that combines with the varying tone of mica and the bronze features. But when the doors are opened from the smokey exterior, there is an outpouring of light from within. The pale Maple mirrored back and twin automatic LED lights to animate the interior. There are shelves and a pull-out ledge that clicks into firm position for the making of margaritas and martini’s. Best enjoyed with our soon to be launched Verglas Rock Crystal tumblers and ice buckets! 

Cicada Bar Cabinet.
Mica, Shell, Bronze, Mirror, LED light, Fumed Figured Eucalyptus, Figured Maple.
Centimetres: W 103.5 cm, D 57 cm, H 147 cm / Inches: W 40 3/4 inch., D 22 1/2 inch., H 57 7/8 inch.

The form and structure of the Pavé Tables were inspired by a constant theme in our furniture, elements of jewelry. The base is made from impressive textured cuffs of brass with open cuts to play with voids of space and light. The table edge has a pinned polished brass ring, while the top returns to the idea of scaly butterfly wings with a unique combination of shagreen in natural tones and eggshell in triangles. The scattered eggshell pieces break the continuity of the top in a delightful contrasting manner.

Pavé Tables in three sizes
Cast brass, Shagreen, Lacquered eggshell, Walnut veneer
Tall Size Centimetres: Dia 65 cm, H 62 cm / Inches: Dia 25 5/8 inch.,  H 24 3/8 inch.
Small Size Centimetres: Dia 60 cm H 52 cm / Inches: Dia 23 5/8 inch.,H 20 1/2 inch.
Low Size Centimetres: Dia 70 cm, H 44 cm / Inches: Dia 27 1/2 inch., H 17 3 inch.
Wishbone Side Table.
Centimetres: Dia 48 cm,  H 66.5 cm / Inches: Dia 18 7/8 inch.,  H 26 1/8 inch.

The Wishbone Side Table from the Intarsia collection made from parchment and bronze creates a wonderful moth-like effect through the fine shibori technique and natural indigo dyes. The story of this piece will be coming in a future blog post. 

The butterfly wing was a starting point for the creation of these works. The materials in the workshop, like the oil paints of the artist, were slowly built up as selected parts applied by hand, each one with a slightly different history, purpose and tone. The finished surface has the energy of this patient work but it also incorporates the inadvertent variables of nature. To me this creates an artwork of quality and authenticity, reflecting the material traditions of the past interpreted through twenty first century ideas, forms and structures. The end result are truly special pieces, unique in the world and wonderful to live with and cherish. 

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