Favourite things: Reflecting on a work of art

Our students made some fantastic pieces of furniture this year, and we’re featuring some of the best of the best from the class of 2017/18, reflecting the fact that a nine-month professional course at the Chippendale school gives students the skills they need for a career in fine woodworking.

Archana Pai from Bangalore in India believes that she will probably be one of her country’s first female fine woodworkers when she sets up her business, Archana Pai Fine Woodwork.

A chartered accountant by profession and a former Internal auditor, Archana wanted to make something that would celebrate her year in Scotland, and her signature piece was a dressing table with a beautiful lime and sycamore framed  mirror that reflects the proportions and contours of a Celtic harp, known as a clarsach in Scottish Gaelic.

So stunning that it’s made a subtle transition from something designed for a humble function to become a work of art.

The mirror itself was water gilded in 12 carat white gold, using a technique known as verre eglomisé, the art of gilding onto glass, and the frame, hand carved into an intricate pattern of leaves and flowers, was 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 is a piece that has both great aesthetic appeal and functionality, incorporating a number of colourful drawers for cosmetics, jewellery and other small items. The drawers are individually crafted from cedar, wych elm, yew, oak and 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 storage space at the base of the mirror is made from veneered sycamore and inlayed with a colourful flower.

It is those details and absolute functionality that gives Archana’s pieces a design character and individuality, blending form and function to great effect.

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