Functional Mythologies

Melissa Gamwell

The gnarled and pocked contours of an unearthed animal bone, carefully catalogued shards of attic pottery, the viscosity of a new batch of bone-china slip or heated wax: these are the things that make the artist Melissa Gamwell’s heart beat a little faster.

Gamwell uses a sophisticated technical process involving bone china, phosphate dyes, water, and semiprecious metals to create sculptural objects that seductively straddle the line between the fine and applied arts. The result is beautifully disconcerting: fine china and flatware firmly reimagined through the chaotic logic of the natural world.

“I’m obsessed with the idea of people using unusual-looking objects that are actually perfectly functional,” she says. “In general I’m not crazy about Salvador Dalí’s paintings, but a few of the forms in his popular canvases—the animals in Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening, the clocks in The Persistence of Memory– really made an impression on me as a child.” Dalí’s breed of organic distortion appealed to Gamwell. “I imagine something similar, but in use,” she says. “A giant bowl embedded in a wall, for example, really allowing objects to have a new situation within a landscape.”

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