It’s going to go down over the first two weekends in June (June 2 and 3 and 9 and 10), from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., rain or shine, at Paul W. Steinbeiser, Inc. Landscape Design & Construction, 26 picturesque acres of native plants—Paul’s specialty—along Route 519 in Frenchtown, New Jersey, about 10 minutes from my workshop and studio.
I’m honored to be included. It’s an intriguing collection of exhibitors: Malcolm Bray, an abstract expressionist painter; Margaret Parish, a photographer and sculptor; Steven Snyder, a stone sculptor; Lauren Johnson, a painter and illustrator; Michael DeVos, an ecological landscape designer; Paul, of course, who’ll be featuring some of his impressive plants; David Hughes, a native garden and fellow furniture designer; and Franz Jozef Ponstingl, who’ll be featuring paintings from the collection of John Munice.
I’m in the middle of building a handful of pieces exclusively for HOBART. Most of them are designs I’ve been kicking around in my head for months while I waited for an uninterrupted stretch that never came to see them through. Let me give you a sneak peek at what I have in mind.
Salvage meets modern design
About eight years ago, I did a clean-out of an old garage in Washington Crossing, which housed the former homeowner’s workshop. He had a deep collection of Fresnel lenses—think lighthouse—some of which I used to create a collection of custom light fixtures, but most of them I sold at the Brooklyn Flea, along with much of the rest of the garage/workshop’s contents.
A simple four-slot, rectangular mail bin that looked every day of 40- or 50-years-old was one of the few things that I held onto. There was just something about it—the ways the wood was perfectly weathered, the brilliant turquoise paint, worn away in all the right spots and dulled just enough by age—that said I could never replicate this bin if I tried. So I didn’t.
I straightened it out and reinforced it and happily left it at that. The rest of my time was invested below the bin, creating a stainless-steel stand. The contrast between the raw edges and the precise lines creates a compelling juxtaposition. (Pictured in the image above.) There’s no reason it couldn’t still be used as a mail bin in a home office, or kitchen, or foyer, but I look at it now more as a sculpture. Then again, my favorite art tends to be functional.
A study in manipulation
From the moment I laid eyes on this small but sturdy sycamore slab, a very specific design appeared in my mind’s eye. I’m going to pickle it white and then shoot it in clear, which, I think, should result in a hue that’ll land somewhere between white and gray.
The base for the table—in its entirety, the table’s going to stand about two feet tall—I’m going to carve, then install an aluminum bottom, and—now for the really interesting part—wrap it with a round, half-inch aluminum bar in the same fashion that women wear neck rings in the ancient African and Asian tradition of neck elongation. The ultimate silhouette will resemble an exaggerated hourglass figure. It’s not as pronounced as it is with the mail bin, but the table, too, finds its identity in the dynamic between two contrasts: the minimal manipulation of the live-edge tabletop and its base, which mimics one of the oldest kinds of body modification around.
The most fashionable planters around
You may have spotted those twin cast-iron baskets in the background of the photo above. I picked them up almost as an afterthought. The old sideboard they’re sitting on was the real object of my fixation. But the sideboard, I’m still figuring out how to handle. The idea for the baskets, meanwhile, struck me right away: planters.
I’m going to create a cylindrical concrete base for each, maybe polish them up, and then weld the baskets to posts that’ll fit directly into the concrete bases. They’ll stand about four feet tall. At regular intervals along the full length of the posts, I’m going to add brass fittings, which, again, should create provocative contrasts, this time between the brass and silver of the posts and the polished finish of both the fittings and the posts and the weathered iron of the baskets.
They may just be the most fashionable planters you’ve ever seen.