“We met through the Peace Movement: it has been a pleasure to explore our friendship through our work.”
Karen Hansen, furniture maker, and Rowan McOnegal, glass artist, have made a pair of cabinets that are entangled with material, emotional and symbolic resonances.
Karen and Rowan decided at an early stage in their collaboration to explore ideas of fragility and resilience. This emerged from their own connections to the materials they use, but also echoing the relationship of two people over many years.
“People are really very resilient, yet also fragile. We want to bind into our work that in a relationship these two forces need to play off each other.”
Through this exploration of friendship, they wanted to make something precious that resonated with them both: a pair of sympathetic cabinets that worked together but could be separated, made from glass, ash and rowan.
Rowan’s name and the protective qualities of the tree associated with English folklore were compelling reasons to find a source of the wood for the project. Karen’s Nordic roots connect with Norse tradition that presents Ash as the Tree of Life. This simply added a further reason for Karen to work with this favourite wood:
“I love working with Ash, I use it a lot: it is strong, resilient but bendable.”
Karen has recently worked on bigger commissions for the outdoors:
“Working at a smaller scale on our project has been delightful, and the venture into fragile and fine is ver y enticing!”They have thought about the processes that the wood will go through. The pair experimented with sandblasting, steaming,and bending the wood to reveal the grain: “If the wood is faceted in some way the light brings it alive.”
“I’ve never integrated my glass into a piece of furniture. I’ve been thinking about how the light will fall, and whether to sandblast away layers of the glass to increase translucency, or incorporate reflective glass. I might use the technique of verre églomisé, backing up the glass with gold or silver leaf. We will also need to think about how to finish the glass so that I don’t add too much weight to the cabinet. Lead is too heavy, but the glass edge has to be finished in some way. I want to see the cabinets made before I work on the glass.”
When Karen had made the cabinets for Rowan to work on she commented: “the cabinets are finished, but not complete”.