Unusual bentwood sculpture the highlight of Clerkenwell Design Week
It took two designers and three months of their creative work to create a three-foot installation of American hardwoods called “The Invisible Store of Happiness”. Sculptor Laura Ellen Bacon and furniture designer and maker Sebastian Cox created this unusual structure from American maple and cherry. The handiwork can be admired at the Clerkenwell Design Week festival at the gateway to the historic Priory Museum of St John of God. The project took place at St. John’s Cathedral in London from May 19-21, 2015. The project was created in collaboration with the Trade Association of the American Hardwood Industry
“When we started this project, we had no idea what it would end up being. What we did know was that it would be an ambitious, perfectly executed and thought provoking installation. Our task was to choose the right people, trust them and let them act freely. Human relationships are important in the creative process – with every project like this we learn something new about cooperation between people. I think this is an extremely valuable experience,” said David Venables, AHEC’s director for Europe.
Sebastian Cox invited Laura Ellen Bacon to collaborate with him because he had always admired her artistic sensitivity and poetic willow wood sculptures. “I’m a sculptor, so I especially enjoyed the refinement of form that was made possible by working with these wood species. We have created an installation that is flexible yet stable,” admits Laura Ellen Bacon.
THE CREATION OF “THE INVISIBLE STORE OF HAPPINESS”
American maple and cherry were molded into an elliptical frame with huge arches of steam-bent wood and pieces joined by tenons without glue. This is an example of exquisite craftsmanship. Thanks to specialist machines, the elements of this frame could be cut into strips and then bent and twisted. But first we had to soak the wood in the waters of the Thames near Sebastian Cox’s workshop in Woolwich. The slats were then shaped by hand, arranged and twisted in the space, creating a swirling form of shapes and textures, held together by the powerful frame.
“The biggest challenge was the great unknown, which we were learning week after week, exchanging ideas and creative solutions. Will steam bending work? Can the machine tool withstand so many hours of work?? Will the chisels not wear out when we make holes in the arch? Will the joints on the castle hold up? Will the slats bend? Will the construction fit through the workshop door? We were able to find the answers to these questions after countless trials, discoveries, experiments and prototypes created. We put our passion for making into this installation, but also sleepless nights and long hours of discussion . This is the largest project we have undertaken to date. We would not have succeeded without Laura’s creativity, experience and calm nature “Sebastian Cox confides.
THE ENVIRONMENTAL ASPECT
American hardwood forests are sustainably managed. In addition, AHEC has been investing for several years in a Life Cycle Assessment project for all species of American hardwoods, which makes it possible to check the environmental impact of a product made from the raw material and create environmental profiles of the projects. Such a profile was also created for the installation “The Invisible Store of Happiness”.
” We can now create precise environmental profiles for every project we engage in. The fact that we can collect data and mathematically model wood products is as important as the numbers themselves. Why? Because We show the industry what is possible and sensitize designers to innovative solutions. I know that the time will soon come when all products will undergo an environmental assessment based on Life Cycle Assessment” – said David Venables, AHEC Director for Europe.
Sebastian Cox adds: “We can also use data from AHEC and the U.S. Forest Service and Calculate how long it takes for the American forests to regenerate the wood we use. I was fascinated by the speed with which the wood I used for The Wish List project presented at the 2014 London Design Festival renewed itself. I think that the design community should be more aware of the Life Cycle Assessment and that we should pay attention to the environmental aspect of our work . On the other hand, people should be able to know the real environmental impact of the things they buy. Projects like this show how important an aspect of craftsmanship is Life Cycle Assessment.”.