Chris Wolston’s tropical-pop crafts

The instinctive relationship with materials and the possibility of molding them into new forms is the basis of the research in balance between art, craftsmanship and design carried out by Chris Wolston, creative born in the United States and studied in Ghana and Colombia, driven by the interest in the rediscovery of ancient production methods and distant traditions.

Today he works between Brooklyn and Medellin creating furnishing accessories and sculptures with an unconventional aesthetic, which arise from the collaboration with workshop masters, from the recovery of manual “know-how” and from experimentation with simple materials. Terracotta, metals and intertwined fibers are the basis of his works, the inspiration comes from observing nature and the great outdoors, recently he was struck by the “Colombian shades of green, never seen before in my life, a fantastic tropical detail to bring into homes “.

From self-productions to collaborations with big brands (in 2018 he signed a line of bags for Fendi) and with prestigious galleries such as The Future Perfect, from anthropomorphic complements “so full of joy that make people happy” to metal ones full of colors, Wolston’s works combine surreal shapes and artisan tradition in an inseparable union, which is familiar at first glance.

What are the boundaries between design and craftsmanship for you?

«Artists, designers and craftsmen have in common the obsessive search to master materials, to shape them in order to give shape to an idea. For this reason, as a designer, I find it interesting to collaborate with those who are able to produce manually. Sometimes I present drawings that seem impossible to make but, proceeding with errors and attempts, we always arrive at the result ».

You were born in the United States, studied in Ghana and then in Colombia. How much have your “travels” influenced your work and why did you choose to open a studio in Medellin?

«As an artist and as a person I am interested in human relationships and the relationships of different cultures with materials. For me it is important to live in different places and come into contact with people, it is a way to “feed” on different points of view. Direct experience is not comparable to that made at a distance through images and testimonies, there is a need to touch, experiment, see with your own eyes. That’s what travel is for!

Colombia has a great craft tradition, in Medellín the specific workshop and industrial techniques for processing different materials are still accessible. Here terracotta bricks are made, aluminum is worked in foundries, there are shops that sell tools for forging metal: you are surrounded by “know-how”, you understand the genesis of objects ».

Your special relationship with raw materials is evident from your works …

«Most of the materials belong to the everyday life of the cities where I live, they are so widespread that they have infinite applications and infinite forms. I love wicker, the teams of weavers I work with are made up of real masters with whom I have built unusual shapes and risky volumes. I recently worked with mountain clay, interesting because it has different natural patinas and shades that are not found in industrial clay ».

Your work communicates a primitive force that affects the deepest and most instinctive part. Do you think that its great attraction lies in this?

“Furniture are objects of relationship, the primitive element creates a visceral relationship between human beings and materials, which is why I want the work to be done strictly by hand. For example, the special texture of my terracotta chairs comes from observing the work done in a brick factory, where each piece had the footprints of those who manipulated it before firing. Today, due to industrialization and mass production, the sense of manual skills and its charm are being lost».

What do you tell through your latest work, Temperature Rising?

«It is a reflection on fantasy and escape, on the relationship of people with nature, on places and materials. During the pandemic I got stuck in the United States because Colombia had closed the borders, I retreated to my native New England home, surrounded by landscapes different from those of South America.

Having swapped a subtropical climate for a humid continental one, I began to see a line between the two, not unlike the outline of a mountain. Unlike tropical motifs and figurative gestures, my work harks back to an old world materiality that incorporates painted bronze and copper, while also introducing a new language of luxury materials such as fur panels, sewn from scraps of the high fashion clothing industry ».

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Source: Living by living.corriere.it.

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