By Laura Goldstein
Concrete is a much in vogue 2018 interior design trend for countertops, fireplace surrounds and floors. It’s incredibly durable and adds a textured look especially when juxtaposed with organic materials like wood and stone. But who could imagine that the heavy medium could be molded like a pretzel into curvaceous tables that actually add an elegant airiness in a room?
Portland, Oregon-based furniture and lighting designer Neal Aronowitz Design/Art has the magic touch, using ‘concrete canvas’ to create his eponymous line of furniture available at SwitzerCultCreative, 1725 West 3rd Avenue in Vancouver.
“I really wanted to make concrete fly like a flying carpet,” laughs Aronowitz from his studio in Portland. “I used to make concrete countertops in my tile and stone business in New York before moving to Portland 22 years ago. Later I stumbled on a website that showed a concrete material on a roll- like cloth, that could have a highly flexible application when water is added. I made about twenty-five sketches of furniture and many experiments with wood forms, then wrapped them in wet concrete canvas clamped in place for 24 hours. I finally had my eureka moment, The Whorl Table.”
Like a ribbon unspooling in the wind, The Whorl Table is both minimalist and sculptural and can be colour customized and finished. And, rather than leaving you cold like some industrial concrete products, it actually evokes an emotional response. It received the People’s Choice Award from the 2017 Azure Magazine AZ Awards.
“The process for the Concrete Canvas Collection is really labour intensive and a real challenge to work with – about 100 hours to make each piece,” Aronowitz explains. He hires an assistant to help maneuver the concrete canvas through many complicated steps. “Furniture of this type has never been produced before so I had to come up with new casting and forming techniques to perfect manufacture.”
The Whorl Console won the 2017 Gray Magazine Award for Product Design and was announced by internationally acclaimed German industrial designer and a competition judge, Ingo Maurer, who happens to be one of Aronowitz’s design idols.
Inspired by the sensual art of Japanese ink painting, The Ensō Table is the embodiment of a brush making a single, swift, expressive stroke from which Aronowitz has re-interpreted into a wall- fastened console in concrete canvas and polished aluminum. The Japanese character it emulates symbolizes enlightenment and the Zen state of mind.
With its indoor/outdoor versatility, The Concrete Canvas Collection seems a perfect ornamental yet functional addition to a private garden or public landscape. In fact, a Whorl Table was commissioned for a lush private oasis in the Hamptons while his Todas Table in concrete canvas and Cor-ten steel was designed for the boutique Hotel San Cristobal in Todos Santos, Baja, Mexico.
Not a man to rest on his laurels, Aronowitz has also explored the realm of sculptural lighting. His Boro Boro Chandelier and Boro Boro Floor Light look like something you’d see in a futuristic home on the fictional planet of Krypton: a cluster of crystallized stalactites of frozen energy are made from frosted borosilicate glass tubes and rods. Boro Boro Chandelier was a runner-up in the 2016 LAMP International Lighting Competition held in Vancouver. And speaking of celestial skies, Aronowitz’s Synodic Sconce captures the phases of the moon through twenty-eight hand-blown glass globes arranged in an arched pathway over Black Galaxy Granite.
“I want to experiment with more lighting although the furniture is extremely time consuming,” admits Aronowitz. “I studied art in college and love working on sculptural, one-of-a-kind pieces rather than anything mass produced. I really feel I’ve found my true passion.”