It’s difficult to define when something designed for a humble function transcends that purpose to become a work of art, but Archana Pai’s clarsach mirror has certainly made that transition.
A former Internal auditor and chartered accountant, Archana wanted to make a piece that would celebrate her year in Scotland.
Her mirror reflects the proportions and contours of a Celtic harp, known as a clarsach in Scottish Gaelic, and is crafted in lime and sycamore.
The mirror itself is watergilded in 12 carat white gold, using a technique known as verre eglomisé, the art of gilding onto glass. Archana is pictured above during the gilding process.
The mirror’s frame, carved into an intricate pattern of leaves and flowers, is gilded with 23.5 carat orange, green and red gold.
Making the frame involved the application of ten layers of gesso, a mixture of refined chalk and animal glue and then, once dried, some ten hours of sanding to bring the surface to perfection, and then the further application of a further four layers of a refined clay called bole.
It’s a piece that has both great aesthetic appeal and functionality, incorporating a number of attached box drawers for jewelry and other small items – each box drawer individually crafted from cedar, wych elm, yew, oak or ash.
Archana’s attention to detail is exquisite. For example, her box drawers aren’t constructed with the usual dovetails, but held together with mahogany splines, and the larger drawer at the base of the mirror is made from veneered sycamore and inlayed with a colourful flower.
It’s those details and absolute functionality that gives Archana’s pieces such design character and individuality, blending form and function to great effect.
For example, a previously-made piece is a beautifully designed beech, spalted beech and sweet chestnut coffee table with a top that lifts and folds out to reveal storage compartments underneath.
Archana will now be returning to her native city of Bangalore to set up Archana Pai Fine Woodwork, making her probably one of the first female fine furniture woodworkers in India.