Max Lamb at London Design Festival 2010

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Max's plaster cast experiments in his North London studio. ©-Max-Lamb
Last month I met with British designer Max Lamb in his North London studio to talk about his latest projects, his participation on WGSN, homebuildlife’s advisory board and to discuss everything from his newly adopted stray cat to his passion for second hand furniture. Another topic we touched upon was his new found love for plaster, which is his material of choice for his latest project; a commission for HSBC Private Bank and London Design Festival. 

Arik Levy designed the Rocksplit and Rockshelves for HSBC Private Bank's VIP Lounge at Design Miami 2009
Launched last year, the Connection Collection by HSBC Private bank aims to nurture design talent and at the same time build a private collection of limited edition design from HSBC Private Bank commissions. Last year's commission winner was Arik Levy who designed an installation for the HSBC VIP Lounge at Design Mimai in December. As the 2010 winner, Max will be designing a series of pieces for the London Design Festival that will be exhibited in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Cast Courts alongside the existing replicas of famous international sculptures, architectural facades and monuments.

The Cast Courts at the V&A Museum, London. Photo courtesy of © Ben Rimmer, Flickr.
His research began with a trip to the Victoria and Albert Museum, "I visited the Cast Courts and read about how their collection had been produced and why it had been produced. In 1867 there was an international agreement that was signed by 15 European princes, which granted permission for the works of art, sculptures and architectural monuments from each European country, to be cast and then reproduced in plaster. So now all over the world in museums you have rooms full of plaster casts of art masterpieces and architectural details cast from the originals. There is something really beautiful about this sharing of art and I like that this agreement made art very accessible.”

One of Max's plaster casting experiments. © Max Lamb 
Inspired by his visit, Max embarked upon a process of research and experimentation during which he created a series of small plaster casts. “High density plaster is an amazing material and one that I haven’t worked with before. You can pour it into molds, you can dip things in it, you can even paint it on in layers and build up incredible detail. "

HSBC Private Bank building, 78 St James Street
“I approached HSBC with the idea of casting a series of pieces in plaster taking architectural details from the HSBC Private Bank HQ on St James Street. The building was designed by Sydney Smirke in 1840 and is now listed by English Heritage for its historical, architectural and decorative significance; there are some wonderful Palladian style architectural details."

Previous work: Soft Poly chair, hand carved in expanded polystyrene and finished with a rubber coating. © Max Lamb
Casting has become a trademark of Max's work and he has experimented with a wide range of different processes, however for this project he will be exploring a new casting method. He will create silicone molds from different sections of the HSBC building and cast them in plaster using timber framed boxes. The resulting casts will then be carved by hand using traditional stonemasonry tools.

Previous work: Left: Bronze Poly chair, hand carved polystyrene cast in bronze using a 'lost foam' casting process. Right: Pewter stool made by pouring molten pewter into a cavity carved out of the sand. © Max Lamb
"I will be working with the plaster in both a constructive and a reductive way. The silicone moulds can be used a number of times so I could make further pieces to create a whole series. One half will be carved away by hand and the other half will be molded, so one half of the piece will always be consistent and the other part will always be different. I’ve never worked with plaster before and I’ve never used the box moulding process before either so it will be a new experience.”

The results of Max’s explorations in plaster will be unveiled in the Cast Courts at the Victoria and Albert Museum during The London Design Festival in September.

Ali Morris
Trends and Events Analyst, Interiors