Friday, April 24, 2009

Monument to Lloyd Schwan

This strange object is parked at the door of our studio. As it is heavy enough, we occasionally use it as a doorstop. Most people, including our interns, take it for one of our own prototypes, or a part of some old project. Hardly anyone can guess that the object is, in fact, a candleholder. And no one knows that it was made by Lloyd Schwan, an American designer whose life tragically ended in 2001, at the age of only 45.

I had met Lloyd a few years earlier – in Paris, of all places – where we were seated next to each other at a post-opening dinner at Neotu Gallery. This was the first, and as far as I know, the last time that a group of American designers would have an exhibition in Paris. Inevitably, we started talking. Lloyd's views of design were startling. He wanted to design the way a child would draw – without any inhibitions, with little or no self-control, with creative freedom
unburdened by any kind of cultural baggage. Even though my own ways were almost entirely opposite, we found that we shared one passion: the love of all things American. At the time, I had made and presented Searstyle furniture already. He, from the other hand, was experimenting with Formica, colored vinyl, parts from industrial mail-order catalogues. After several random meetings, we decided to collaborate on a show.

In retrospect, it seems strange how we could find any common themes: me, born in Russia and educated in Milan, and him, who grew up in Chicago and was living in Pennsylvania. We settled on an idea of exhibition as design conversation – it was called "Conversation Pieces" – and it gathered crowds when it opened in May 1999, when ICFF was still in its infancy. I believe, it was for this exhibition that Lloyd made his heavy lamps and candleholders. He simply welded together random stacks of large steel nuts, washers, and other industrial parts, and had them all powder-coated off-white. The objects, though relatively small, had a quiet power of heavy machinery.

At dismantling of the show, Lloyd noticed that I was eyeing one particular piece with longing. "Just take it, I don't want to carry it back", he said. He has already started to leave things behind; later, he also parted with people and friends, even with his wife and their three children... Ten years has passed since our last design "conversation". The candleholder without a candle remains by our door, like a small and very private memorial.
Blogger RWordplay said...

A lovely story; all the more so for the humble aspect of the candleholder, which belies the serious weight of the ideas that inform it. I am not one who credit children with creativity, spontaneity or artistic insight, but I have always thought that designers and artist who seek what really doesn't exist, are likely to stumble on something special.

June 9, 2009 at 12:02 AM  
Blogger ann said...

thank you for this snapshot of lloyd

September 26, 2010 at 9:06 PM  

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