A conversation piece…a sculptural object…a curio. The French even have a term for it: objet d’art. Whatever the name, art objects give instant personality to a room. They’re an important device designers employ to maximum effect to give that space a unique look. When a client wants to give a facelift to a room without replacing the furniture, designers change the objet d’art. If there’s a limited budget but the client still wants to make a design statement, use an art piece. When there’s a tight space and no room for furniture, like a narrow hallway or a small niche, decorate it with an objet d’art.
Then what are objets d’art exactly? They come in many different shapes and materials. They can be ceramics, metal, glass, wood or even fabric objects. They can be functional like a vase or a bowl or merely decorative, like a sculpted animal. Despite the diversity, what they all have in common is that they provide an aesthetic purpose.
One of the oldest art forms is pottery. Originally people created pots and urns just to hold foods or liquids. With the development of firing and glazing techniques, pottery morphed into many different looks and varieties and soon people weren’t just using them for cooking anymore. Korean artist, Myung-Jin Kim, molds his clay to create bird ceramics. He creates functional urns and vases as well as decorative birds and a combination of both as in the case of this bird emerging out of this urn.
Vermont artist, Natalie Blake, employs a special technique, sgraffito, to create her ceramic tiles. Sgraffito in Italian means to scratch. In sgrafitto, the artist creates layers of different colored clays or glazes on an unfired ceramic body and then scratches away the top layer to reveal the secondary color. These ceramic tiles can be hung as wall art individually or in a group or just displayed on a table. Blake sculpted a tree of life design in the example below and the ocean swells as shown in Nautilus.
Glasswork is another important type of objet d’art. Glass has been discovered as far back as 35th century BCE in Asia. The earliest pieces were usually just beads or plates. As an art form, glasswork such as vases was being formed by the 16th century BCE in Egypt. By the 13th century, the island of Murano in Venice became the leading glass manufacturer of the world.
Italian artist, Lino Tagliapietra, continues the tradition of Venetian glass-blowing with a more modern flavor. Inspired by African Masai weapons, he designed colorful Masai wall sculptures in glass and metal. He also creates beautiful blown vases such as the Mandara vase.
Another glass artist, Marlene Rose from Florida, uses sand mold techniques to create her artwork. Designing a specific type mold, Rose then pours liquid molten glass into the mold and as it cools, sandblasts it with portable burners to further shape it. The resulting glass piece is then mounted on a metal stand. Her designs are Asian-inspired as shown in the New Core Buddha and the Water Temple Buddha.
Michael Sherrill uses mixed mediums to create his sculpted objects. From North Carolina, Sherrill works on a combination of porcelain, moretti glass, and bronze to create these nature-inspired sculptures. Shown here are the Night Moderne and Jules Vernium. On the Night Modern sculpture, the leaves are from moretti glass — which is a specific type of colored glass rod that is melted to create patterns in glass. The stamen in the center is made from porcelain. On the Jules Vernium, the branches are from bronze.
There is a whole world of objets d’art out there waiting to be discovered. Besides your local gallery or accessory store, take a look at local or travelling art shows. The SOFA or Sculptural Objects and Functionary Art international exposition takes place three times a year at New York, Chicago, and Santa Fe. SOFA exhibits a high caliber of sculptural work from artists around the world. If you need to give a client’s space a special look, you can easily find that striking objet d’art.