Monday, July 17, 2017

Desert Masonry Candle Blocks

I was fortunate enough to spend two months in early 2017 living and studying architecture at Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio in Scottsdale Arizona.

The  students of the school are required to perform tasks such as washing dishes, making lunch, cleaning the studio, etc.

One of these duties included not just setting the dining tables, but also redecorating the room. At my first lunch I sat down to a table set with several tea lights in glass containers - my first lunch by candlelight. And this gave me an idea.

The simple glass tealight holders struck me as somewhat out of place and it made me wonder what a candlestick designed according to Wright's principles would look like. Because of my interest in concrete I figured I could make some interesting casts to serve my purpose.

The more I worked on the design the more I realized that I had to come up with something completely new to me - something appropriate to the tables at Taliesin West.

All that it takes to hold a tea light is a concrete block with a recess to receive the candle. But to make it appropriate to Taliesin, I cut all four sides by 15 degrees and added a horizontal groove matching Wright's original proportions.

The first step involved creating an object that had the right overall shape, and then pouring polyurethane rubber over it.

I used existing candle sticks to create the positives that would form the cut outs in a future cast.

This mold was then used to create a perfect positive. And from the perfect positive, a new perfect negative was created. The perfect negative was used to cast the finished pieces.

The earliest cast was vibrated too much, which resulted in the surface stones sliding back into the mix and smooth surfaces. It took about four or five tries before I got the concrete mixture and vibration procedure correct.

In May of 2019 Phoenix Home & Garden Magazine profiled the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation's effort to have them manufactured by developmentally disabled adults. The article can be found here:

A month later the state of Arizona also published a write-up on the collaboration.



I like the look of just waking up after a night of fun and regret. I think this piece based on a selfie taken by River Viiperi, and used with his permission, captures that pretty well.