Friday, November 13, 2009

Mixed media...

The medium which forms a large percentage of my work has for the longest time been wood, both of the domestic and exotic type. Over the past few months I have begun to explore alternative media such as metal and glass. You can see a few pieces in my portfolio which incorporate metal or both glass and metal. What do I attribute this radical shift to? For the most part, I have entered an exploratory stage in my art. The challenge of working with new media and the associated techniques I need to develop and acquire to be able to use these alternative media excite me. I also like to develop and create a new aesthetic which will be predominately wood but include metal and glass elements to enhance the design. The beauty and curiosity attached to mixed media work is another factor.

I've faced some new challenges with this new mixed media aesthetic and for the most part overcome them, although I continue to learn and develop. Technical considerations such as how to attach metal to wood and how to attach glass to metal have come up, the issue of expansion and contraction is somewhat different with extremely stable material such as metal and glass. Metal and glass don't noticeably expand or contract with environmental changes such as wood does. Another interesting technical issue that has arisen is the lack of compression characteristic of metal. The slots or holes which I use to insert metal components need to be created very precisely for precision fitting. Working with metal also involves slightly different tools and processes, I don't even prepare the metal components in the space I work with wood to not contaminate wood with metal filings.

Once these issues have been overcome, the design possibilities open to me are unlimited. The choice of media I previously created my designs with was somewhat limited to different types of wood; domestic, exotic and figured. Today I can incorporate metal, glass and possibly stone in my work, along with my predominant medium of wood. Throughout history, much art and craft has been designed using mixed media so I am by no means a trend setter here. Artists and artisans of earlier eras had probably also sought to challenge themselves with the addition of different medium to their main material and to appreciate the beauty of mixing wood, metal, glass, stone in a piece of art.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Another influential style from the early part of the 20th century has its origins in Germany. The "Bauhaus style" was developed during the era of the Weimar Republic in Germany. The arts and design community was actively supported in the years following WW I up until 1933 in Germany. It was during this period that the Bauhaus design movement flourished in parallel to the Art Deco movement. It was very avante-garde for it time and incorporated shapes and forms which are fairly modern looking even to this day. As an example, I walked into a local furniture showroom recently and there was a reissue of a Marcel Breuer tubular metal and leather chair on display. This particular chair is iconic in the furniture design world as it set the trend for tubular metal furniture and encouraged the use of tubular steel in many furniture designs.

A fairly well known abstract painter, Wassily Kandinsky, was an art instructor at the school. Walter Gropius founded the school and Mies van der Rhone and Marcel Breuer taught architecture. The Bauhaus developed from the Expressionism of the early Weimar years, 1918- 1919 and transitioned to Constructivism and finally to a architectural emphasis in its later years towards 1933. The school itself evolved during the few years it was in existence in both direction and location. It began as an edgy art and design school but became more mainstream in its latter years and was ultimately dissolved.

Although Bauhaus is today associated with a style of design it was in fact a leading art, craft and design school in its era. In the period from 1919 - 1933 this school was the leading design institute in Germany. The school was comprised of different departments ranging from arts. crafts, metalwork, furniture, design, printing and architecture. These departments combined to form a fairly independent art and design institute which heavily influenced much of the design emanating from Germany throughout this period. Much of the Bauhaus style continues on to this day, influencing a considerable body of design. The Bauhaus derived style of architecture has been very influential in mid-century buildings.

Many of the instructors at the Bauhaus design school emigrated to the US and became architects and professors of architecture in the leading universities of the 1930's through the 1950's. A fascinating period of design and architecture in my opinion...