The carving in the Somerset table contains the timeless swag motif that has been employed for thousands of years. The medium of glass and the carving itself blurs the lines between traditional and contemporary. – Zeinab Harding
The international adventure titled simply “SOMERSET” brings together a London-based woodcarver, a glass studio in California’s Mojave Desert, and a Portland, Oregon, metal fabrication/design studio; all linked by an artisanal glass factory in the US Pacific Northwest.
The project has many chapters but at its core it is an ode to material. To the hands of the maker that lives within the glass. And to the history of an old building and its preservation.
Original wood carving: Zeinab Harding / London
Glass Casting: Michael Endo / HIGH DESERT OBSERVATORY, Yucca Valley, CA
Metal Fabrication: Brian Creany / FLUX DESIGN, Portland, OR
Management and Project Design: BULLSEYE PROJECTS, Portland, OR
Challenged to interpret the fireplace motif, Harding gathered additional images from the decorative details within the Neoclassical architecture of Somerset House.
Festoons (swags) were originally used by the Greeks and Romans to decorate altars. Whether original or not, the fireplace in the West Wing room assigned to Bullseye by the organizers of the Collect fair scheduled to open in February 2020, pays homage to this theme of agricultural abundance and is reinterpreted by contemporary woodcarver Harding.
Before beginning the wood carving, Harding first creates a clay model in order to determine the depths needed to calculate the wood carving.
After machining, planing, and cutting the lime wood blank to size, she begins a weeks-long process of meticulously carving the imagery out of the blank.
The end of the carving process marks the beginning of the journey from wood into glass.
Once the carving is complete, silicone is poured over the 8” x 24” lime wood relief.
DRESSED FOR TRAVEL
Firmly supported in its Jesmonite jacket, the silicone mould is ready for its 9000 km flight to a Southern California desert.
On the worktable of the High Desert Observatory in Yucca Valley, California, the mould awaits unpacking.
Studio co-owner/operator Michael Endo makes a plaster-silica casting from the silicone mould.
After drying, the plaster mould is placed on a fiberpaper-lined kiln shelf.
AT LONG LAST GLASS
A combination of crystal clear sheet glass and billets (blocks) are loaded on top of the plaster mould and dammed with refractory walls.
Once at top temperature (1600° F / 871° C), Endo opens the kiln before its long and precise cooling phase back to room temperature.
At first glimpse, the clarity of the cast glass is barely visible on the kiln shelf. On closer inspection, the chisel marks of the wood carver glisten beneath the surface.
Rough edges and surfaces are ground through a range of abrasives while water-cooled to prevent overheating of glass by friction.
FROM DESERT TO PACIFIC NORTHWEST
After careful packing, the crated glass slab is trucked out of the Mojave Desert for its overnight flight to Portland, Oregon.
Arriving back at its material birthplace–the Bullseye Glass factory–the reverse-relief glass slab is unpacked.
Bullseye staff discusses design at the metal fabrication studio entrusted to construct the slab’s mild steel base.
A quick photo taken back at the factory warehouse before the slab, table base, and steel backing for the wood carving jet off to London and Collect 2020.
Bullseye Projects returns to London for Collect 2020, an international art fair for modern craft and design. Bullseye Projects is again presenting work by emerging and mid-career artists who have deep ties, either as alumni or faculty, to British art and design programs, including new work by Heike Brachlow, Celia Dowson, Joshua Kerley, Joanna Manousis, Anne Petters, and Karlyn Sutherland. Collect 2020 will be held, for the first time, at Somerset House. To celebrate this change of venue, Bullseye Projects will debut a collaboration with London-based wood carver Zeinab Harding inspired by the architecture of this unique and historic building.