How long have you been making concrete furniture?
I started experimenting with plasters and concrete after I got out of graduate school in art. I took a class at the Pasadena City College on concrete, which I flunked. I found it too technical, but I still kept on playing with concrete artistically. I’ve been playing with concrete since 1984 and I started Holmes Wilson Tables about ten years later in 1995. I became interested in furniture after my experiences with catering, when I found that the tables I displayed food on were dull and lifeless.
What motivated you to start making furniture?
Since the beginning I have always asked myself: would I want to live with this table? Would I want to eat off of it, socialize around it, raise my family around it? When catering I saw the importance of tables in many people’s lives. The table represents gathering, and it is the focal point of families and human interaction. We wondered then: why do so many tables lack presence? Maybe we could change that, if just a little.
What is your process?
Without revealing many trade secrets, I design, cast, finish and seal tables. I pick the leaves from my garden and decide how to cast with them. I use a product that reduces the amount of concrete required by around 30%, makes the table stronger, and certifies my tables as green. The tables are triple sealed, oiled, and waxed to protect the table from stains.
What is your favorite part of the process?
I’m a plant fanatic. I love growing any kind of plants and working with them in my business. I develop a relationship with the plants and leaves while I fossilize their leaves. I never cease to marvel at how unique each leaf and table are, and I continue to be satisfied with my products.
How did you come up with the idea to imprint leaves into the concrete furniture?
I grew up in gardens. My mother had a magnificent garden. In high school, Anya Fisher was my art teacher every year. For the first year, we drew sticks. The next year we drew leaves. Then we drew fruit and vegetables for a year, and finally we drew rotting fruit and vegetables. Anya taught me how to see nature, the artistic depths of biology. In 1984, I was trying to make a fruit tree planter and I put pears in the mold where I was casting the concrete. I played with all kinds of natural elements like woodchips and hay, and found out what and worked what didn’t. I found flatter materials worked better, and leaves are probably the flattest thing in nature there is. I thought about using moth wings, but those aren’t that easy to come by.
What inspires you and your work?
Being curious. My tables are all experiments. How will the table end up? I never really know. Like nature. I have a vision for each table I make, but the subtle randomness of biology and mineral patterns often make it better than the vision.
Any comments about being a artist who makes furniture by hand?
It’s a lot of work and it’s not as romantic as it sounds. It has its moments: every time I make a good table, I’m satisfied. And when people return to me after purchasing a table ten years ago and tell me it’s their favorite piece of furniture, I’m filled with a warm, fuzzy feeling!