Since 2011, Australian designer Christopher Boots has pushed his studio to international recognition. His conceptual work and use of natural stones and minerals has captured the attention of illustrious clients, including Hermès. Cultured sat down with Boots to discuss his production style, the artisan mindset and upcoming projects.
Christopher, in a short time you’ve grown your studio to 35 people. Can you look back and pinpoint the time where things really took off for you?
Ten years before hands when I knew I was going to do a project like this I guess? Lol. A large studio was never aim or drive; this is merely a consequence to the work. As artist/makers, we’re looking at investigating ideas and playing with materials, imbuing these with our hands and minds, colored by experiences and processes that excite us.
Things took off since day one. Having my best friend help me out was the best blessing in the early days. Then it was two of us. Then three, four, five…I don’t think I intentionally set out to create a community of people; it’s an organic process and like yoghurt, the culture grows outside of any project management.
You’ve done a number of projects with Hermès. How did that relationship begin?
Like a lot of work these days, an email landed in my inbox. An invitation to work together on the windows developed; we’d talked about the fall windows, though it became apparent that the main holiday windows were most appropriate for the conceptual work I was investigating at the time. The theme that first year was Metamorphosis, a beautiful and poetic dovetail with the origins and evolution of consciousness that still interests and drives my thinking.
I think I was first introduced to your work some years ago at Design Miami via Armel Soyer. Working in both limited editions and open-run, what are the greatest differences in how you approach production?
Armel! She’s amazing. We just had dinner the other week while I was in France for a private installation. I love her approach to art, that love for quality of life, appreciation of the arts with a subtle humor that only the French can do so well. I’ve been producing my own work for many years now and making smaller runs is a blessing. There’s a certain feel that this is it- there won’t be any more- creating a special little moment and giving it away. Maybe that’s a bit dramatic but when you pour so much into something and then it’s gone from the studio, it’s a lyrical moment to see the work travel. An artist produces a single work; a designer makes for production and replicates one’s own work and then becomes a manufacturer. I’ve always approached each item regardless of the intent for production or limited editions with the same spirit of consideration, beauty and simplicity.
I’m sure you’ve noticed the movement toward stones, minerals and crystals in interior design and accessories. You’ve been working in that vernacular for some time now. What do you think is the appeal toward these grounding materials?
Oh really? I hadn’t noticed. (Chuckles.) I’m over the moon to see elements of the natural world appearing in interiors. If you think about it, for thousands of years minerals have been used in interiors (Romans, Mayans, Ancient Greece, et al) as these were the luxurious elements of the world. Grounding through nature is so important right now, as our world becomes filled with ever more digital and conceptual distractions, taking us on a more mental plane; we become divorced from the earth, that little rock in that solar system that we’re born on. On a more pragmatic note, the use of stones and crystals are physical, tactile reminders that we live on a planet with rich and complex energies.
Are there new materials you’re experimenting with, or incorporating into new work?
My personal studio is awash with piles of ceramic moulds, ready for the new work planned for the start of the year. Porcelain is a new material for me; the translucency, delicacy and fragility all speak as emissaries of light. It’s still very experimental and we’re not sure what the final outcome will be yet. Tables are also covered in wooden boxes filled with lapis lazuli, another classical material I’m adding to the lexicon of rich, beautiful elements to my reductive palette. I usually steer away from using color as decoration in my work, for fear of being fashionable. With that being said, we’re experimenting with deep richly textured blue-green patination treatments on brass; this is acceptable as the colour will naturally occur on brass hundreds of years in the future. My intention has always been long-term; how these items appear in a hundred years’ time is an utmost consideration. Future antiques? Absolutely.
You have a full team of artisans in your atelier. Why was it important to you to bring all of these creators in house, rather than outsourcing?
Artisans are at the heart of creation. While it’s a relatively cut and dried task these days to design a product, delegate and outsource the entire manufacturing process to third parties, this is how much of the design world operates. While it may bring efficiencies of resources, faster production and easier profits, it separates the designer/makers hand and spirit from the work. Valuing the human touch and traces of gestures will become increasingly important in a digitized world. I guess I’ve grown up with the ideal environment where learning is a shared, collective experience and we have the chance to become stronger from these experiences.
What’s the largest scale project you’ve worked on to date?
In terms of physical scale of items, we’ve created items weighing in at hundreds of kilograms. We made a Diamond Ring for a private client in Dubai and that weighed in around a quarter ton. We’re currently working on GOLIATH, a crystallised ORP that will certainly be over 400 pounds. In terms of project scale, perhaps the Melbourne Tennis Centre: graced with fixtures on the entire covered perimeter. If you’re around for the Australian Open you’ll certainly notice my work.
Are there any new projects in the fall/winter you’d like to bring attention to at this time?
Working on a small series of bronze screens incorporating lapis lazuli, smoky quartz and diamonds. They’ve been described as artistic, baroque, celestial and deco; all terms that comfort my sensibilities.
Will your work be shown at any of the design fairs this fall/winter?
The schedule is looking like I may have to move to the Northern Hemisphere sometime soon! We’re planning Milan, Collective, TEFAF, PAD, NOMAD to name a few.