Back in the Autumn of 2015 I embarked on a project that was different to anything I had tried before and took me a little out of my comfort zone. It was a collaboration project entitled 'Two Make' which brought together 10 pairs of makers to explore new ideas and make new work together. Having never collaborated before it was an interesting concept to me but an exciting opportunity to be able to go back to the drawing board and start afresh on some new ideas.
I was to be working with Kristian Pettifor, a contemporary furniture designer maker who contacted me after being drawn to the pattern and colour in my lighting range. After chatting on the phone about what we both wanted to get out of the project and lots of emails later we put in our application.
The project is curated in partnership with the Gloucestershire Guild of Craftsmen, the University of Exeter and is funded by the Arts Council, which meant that we could all devote some time to just trying out new ideas rather than worrying about getting to the finished outcome.
Our first meeting in my studio went well as it quickly became clear that we were both drawn to the same sort of images, which we were both pretty relieved to find out!
Probably the most important concept and our starting point was using texture and light together. We wanted to figure out how to mix our two materials - paper and wood - in a design that would use light to enhance the surfaces and depth of both. We were aiming to create a new surface design and were both inspired by tile and marquetry pattern in interior applications, as well as the more irregular design found in nature. Ive included here some of the images that we collected that helped us to shape and hone our ideas.
We started looking at the patterns formed in nature when surfaces crack or grow. Cellular patterning occurs when there is a certain tension on the surface, for example when soapy bubbles form and define each others shape. The same thing happens with shrinking, such as a desert floor cracking in the sun. This linked in to the idea of 'The Path of Least Resistance'; the easiest path taken in nature when forms repeat and flow.
Beginning to do some drawings around these ideas, we decided to settle on a pattern made up of these irregular 5, 6 and 7 sided forms. Taken from a photo of soap bubbles, we started with Kristian's initial sketch which turned into this wooden sample. The rough marks of the saw cross over the wood grain to create layers of texture, brought out by a pale lye finish which gives the oak more of a grey tone.
Meanwhile I was experimenting with how I could use my materials using these shapes and how best to create a rich surface texture using light. Here are some samples taped up in my studio window...
We both liked this last image and how the triangles of paper meet to form a faceted, jewel-like surface. At this stage we were talking about merging the paper and wooden shapes together on a two dimensional panel of some kind, maybe a screen or on the wall, or a surface that could be incorporated into a piece of furniture.
We spoke about the different ways of lighting it, either using natural light, LEDs or both. The tricky part would be how to light my paper sections from behind so the light shines through, and at the same time lighting Kristian's wooden surface from the front at the right angle.
In the end we decided to make a large, sculptural table lamp. This would enable us to light both parts in the optimum way. Kristian proposed a way of building the lamp that would bring the light bulb forward and hanging down slightly, therefore shining light down over the front of the wooden base as well as illuminating the whole shade above.
We decided that we wanted the pattern of irregular shapes to be perfectly consistent from the base to the shade, so that when your eyes travel across the lamp it might seem random at first, but then you start to notice a repeat. Kristian came up with this way of making the base out of solid pieces (reminded me of the Giant's causeway in Ireland!) and we played around with pushing the pieces forward and back to make the surface even more sculptural.
I set about making the lampshade. After deciding on the size, I needed to learn a thing or two about pattern repeats. The shapes in Kristian's base would need to be repeated 6 times round the drum lampshade, fit together each time and slot together perfectly at the seam. So started a big jigsaw puzzle!
It was fun choosing the colours and building up the design. Even though the shapes in the pattern repeated, I wanted the colours to be different each time.
After cutting and peeling away sections of the design, it was finished. We wouldn't see the lamp with the lampshade until the start of the exhibition! Kristian did so well getting his part finished as his wife was giving birth to their first child around this time, so things were quite busy....
The show opened in Cirencester at the Corinium Museum on the 5th February and it was amazing seeing the end results of everyone's collaboration.