The Vault Bench – A Sculpture Built of Straw

2 February 2017 Posted by Marion

Functional yet sculptural. Delicate but strong. Simple yet complex. Complimentary opposites Alexander explored designing the Vault Bench. Its name derives from the sense of solidity and strength of a bank vault. Also the vaulted ceiling created by the arch and walls. The bench rises on legs that are deliberately assymetrical to allow for the impression of hand-cutting that went into building the master. 

Vault Bench with cushion covered in dyed and handwoven English horsehair. Ebony straw marquetry detail. 

“I saw the idea to build a bridge with the straw: adding piece by piece and cutting to create an arching structural form that had a universe of subtle texture within it.”

The uneven lengths and edges of bundles of straw we use for our marquetry – on their own fragile but together very strong – sparked the idea of transforming this tubular rawness into something shaped and strong.
The entire bronze base was first made with straw to create the uniquely textured and detailed frame.
With much care and attention, each piece of straw was skillfully measured, placed and glued into place.
Building the entire base from straw was a decision to give integrity to the whole piece and create a ‘working sculpture’
Forming the arch of the bench is a vaulted ceiling of fluted manicured straws 

The straw base was then covered in silicon rubber and then a supporting mold in fibre-glass. The distinctively textured structure could then be transformed into a cast patinated, functional and powerful sculpture. A narrow line of ebony straw marquetry gives a final elegant detail to this inspiration and lightens the transition from base to cushion.

Vault Bench with patina aniline leather cushion and ebony straw marquetry trim
Alexander loves natural materials that improve with age – this leather will stretch and patinate and mark over time bringing an added dimension of character 

The cushion is made in two options: 1: full aniline leather that will age and distress beautifully, providing a smooth tonal fit with the base and 2: a finely woven horsehair fabric made in his hometown of Somerset in rural England. John Boyd Textiles are one of only two remaining horsehair weavers in the world – see more here.

Vault Bench with blue and black striped horeshair cushion.

Incredibly layered with detail and a quiet presence, the Vault Bench is a piece that at first appears simple but whose subtle complexity and uniqueness of detail will gradually unfold to the owner. 

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