furniture inspired by wilderness and wildlife
I cannot count the times I have suddenly stopped still in the woods, frozen with fascination that I'm sharing space with a wild animal. I rarely photograph at that moment; they almost always see me first. Even the bears are usually just a lucky glimpse.
My image ideas always begin with admiration for a particular species and awe of the sheer beauty of the animal. Even images with no animal, like the Tribal tables, are made FOR wild animals (the Tribal design is in honor of the endangered elephants and rhinos that are threatened by poaching). My intent is always to honor wild animals, and convey each with dignity. I attempt to visually illustrate the fact that all wild animals are sentient beings with valid emotions and individual personalities.
I like to have the wild animal presence on each table, because that feels good to me (more on that in my upcoming blog). Regardless of each table image, however, my goal is to promote the preservation of wilderness habitat. Native habitat is the greatest need of all wild species, and it is a complicated need, due to the variety of species that share space.
mentors - molesworth, rungius and muir
If I were to choose three people who have deeply influenced me in this process, they would be furniture designer Thomas Molesworth, wildlife fine artist Carl Rungius, and John Muir the great explorer and conservationist.
I'm a total Muir Geek. I write down favorite parts of his books on little multi-layered Post It notes.... When we were at the campfire in Sundun Bay, one of the prospectors replying to Mr. Young's complaint that they were often without meat, asked Toyadi why he and his men did not shoot plenty of ducks for the minister. " Because the ducks' friend would not let us ," said Toyadi. " When we want to shoot, Mr. Muir always shakes the canoe! "
I continually study all three of these men with fascination and my deepest respect.
the design process
It seems I rarely come up with a design through precisely the same method each time. Each new highly detailed design is a long-term project, which I love. My previous career as a landscape architect taught me to savor the process, and to take the time to get it right.
My mural images are usually a mosaic of several drawings and photographs. I travel light, so photos are usually from my Iphone or my little Canon SX710 HS with 30x optical zoom. Because I cannot personally photograph each species I want to work with, I sometimes create interpretations from other images. I make a lot of pencil sketches, and a lot of acrylic paint sketches. For abstraction, I may make an impression from branches or wood grain pressed onto paper, then work that into the image as well.
Line drawings are then refined into many intricately defined color fields, like a paint-by-number painting. This allows me to keep track of exactly where each ceramic glaze is ultimately applied to the image. It's a long process to develop and combine all the mosaic images. I carefully scale and move critical pieces around until I have the final image.
making the tables
Bringing color into the story is the fun part. Test tiles and abbreviated panels help me to refine the glaze choices. Each individual field is assigned a specific glaze prior to the actual glazing process.
Following completion of the mural drawing, the image is transferred onto Italian red bisque tile and carefully glazed. I work with several hundred different ceramic glazes, rarely mixing them. My favorite glazes show unique characteristics such as depth, color variety or shimmer. I play with color combinations by putting various tile test pieces together. The glazing of one tabletop or wall piece can take a significant amount of time, and it seems there are always a few surprises when the tiles emerge from the kiln.
I am meticulous about keeping and updating detailed records for each piece, especially regarding the glazes. I am constantly improving the glaze color combinations as the designs progess.
After all tiles are fired, they are bonded to a high quality non-toxic plywood and fitted to the table frame or wall frame. The table frames I design specifically for each piece, providing shop drawings to be custom fabricated by a professional welder. To instill a sleek, stylized look for the modern mountain home, ceramic art panels align neatly with the steel frame of the tables. They are then finished with a custom powder coat or wrapped creatively in Italian leather. Wall hangings are framed on reclaimed oak, which I sand smooth, stain, and finish.