Text: Gillian Serisier. Photography: Petr Krejci
Comprising a site-specific architectural sculpture exploring visual weight as a cohort of scale, The Invisible Store of Happiness brings together the talents of two of the UK’s rising stars. One of the most innovative design thinkers to emerge in recent years, furniture maker Sebastian Cox produces work that is paradoxically centred on handcrafted pieces made from coppiced timbers, and in particular hazel.
Kevin McCloud has said of him, “Sebastian Cox is at the very pointy end of showing us just how versatile and productive our coppiced woodland can be. He is a true adventurer”, while Sir Terence Conran has commissioned him to create a cocoon-like workspace for his personal use.
Willow wicker, on the other hand, has been the primary medium of sculptor Laura Ellen Bacon, whose massive nest-like structures wrap and displace architectural form. And herein lies the rub. Rather than commission a set outcome, AHEC (American Hardwood Export Council) posited a design driven entirely by the two very different, but highly compatible, modes of thinking. “Both of us were saying ‘this is way out of my comfort zone, ordinarily the things I make are unobtrusive; they don’t shout or annoy’. So to be suddenly doing something esoteric was a very strange experience,” says Cox. That said, whatever that outcome was going to be, it was to be made of American maple and cherry.
Much has been made of Cox’s preference for 2H pencils and Bacon’s penchant for 6B, as physical manifestations of their design thinking – one tight and specific, the other loose and flowing. This, however, is misleading. Each is effectively and completely outcome driven, with the main difference being site specificity, in that Bacon generally works on-site, while Cox never does. As such, the design process, while beginning on paper, quickly evolved to conceptual blurs (Cox quotes Bacon as showing each drawing with the disclaimer: “Not like this but…”), computer renderings and eventually 1:1 ply models.
More importantly perhaps was the understanding of wood each brings to the project. “We discovered that we were very, very different, but the one thing that shone through and united us was the passion and respect that we have for wood and the creative process of making, which is embodied with love and joy that stays in the object for ever as an eternal store,” says Cox, alluding to the work’s title. This title posits layered concerns, including the secreted interior and artistic or creative intent, as well as the inherently stored carbon of timber made objects.