Alistair Byars is a talented designer/maker of sculptural objects currently living and working between Edinburgh and Glasgow and interning at Groves-Raines Architects Studios, Edinburgh. His work focuses on hand-applied materials and studies the visual and tactile properties of rough/smooth and natural/artificial textures. Conceptually speaking, Alistair’s works go beyond material exploration and question philosophical notions of life through different symbolic forms and compositions.
Moonlight Low Table
Moonlight Low Table is a sculptural piece produced from layered wood and finished in a hand-applied, micro cement coating. With its soft tones and subtle warmth, this piece invites us to contemplate the lightness and beauty naturally present in neutral tones and symmetrical structures.
«This piece is inspired by, and dedicated to, my father – who passed away in 2019. This incident brought me in contact with the fragility of one’s life and death, as well as the Buddhist notion of cyclical rebirth. With this in mind, the form is defined by 3 movements: Two mirrored paths (father and son); an arc, that bridges the divide between them (life and death), and an ellipse: the eternal cycle that transcends one’s present circumstance (rebirth).» Alistair Byars
The process of translating the Buddhist notion into Moonlight Low Table
Alistair Byars: The Buddist notion of cyclical rebirth is something I think about a lot, in many contexts. Most commonly it is thought of in the context of life and death, but can also be the ability to reinvent yourself. To continuously burn a belief or connection, in order to produce something new and hopefully better in its place. The legs and sloping faces of the table have a defined, symmetrical structure – with beginning and endpoints that form paths around the body. This tends to be how we often contextualize our circumstances: The day begins and ends, as does the year, as does the life.
However, the notion of cyclical rebirth can blur these points of beginning and end into one – forming a single, eternal path. The ellipse running around the top of the table is a symbol of this: No beginning, no end. This pairing of both defined and eternal paths that form the body denotes our uncertainty and anxiety towards the notion of rebirth, in any context. To have faith in this process is one of the hardest things we grapple with. We often question if we can complete a necessary rebirth, in order to get out of some current circumstance. So we live within these defined paths of beginning and end, but hope to one day gather enough courage to undergo a rebirth. To make contact with the eternal path, in pursuit of a better life.
The creative process and challenges
Alistair Byars: A lot of the work I have done up to this point is based on trying to develop my understanding of form and proportion. It took a long time, almost a year, to produce this table’s form exactly as I saw it in my minds-eye. A real labor of love. Sketching, small-scale modeling, tweaking the curves on CAD. This was an iterative process, continued until I could look at the form and not find something that didn’t seem quite right. I wanted to bring together qualities of both organic and defined forms. My previous works were very bulbous and undefined – which can sometimes feel like the easy route when creating. It is harder to produce a form with definition and symmetry, as it’s more obvious when it’s not done right. This was a challenge I wanted to set for myself.
Once I finalized the form, I took the CAD model and produced the full-scale piece. This was made up of CNC-cut pieces of wood, which were laminated together and then sanded flush for many hours. I had estimated 20 hours of sanding, which turned out to be over 100… The skin on my hands was gone but the table was a worthy exchange. All of this work took place in my mum and step-dad’s relatively small garage. This was a challenge in itself, as there was just enough space to walk around the table and no more. I am grateful to them for putting up with the ungodly amount of mess created during the process.
A calm and peaceful object presented in a soft, neutral tone
Alistair Byars: I’m very relieved and surprised that it came out as close to what I intended, as this was by far the most involved process I’ve gone through to produce something. It was a leap of faith – as I wasn’t at all confident that I could produce it to the level I wanted, given my current limitations around space and tools. It is also such a relief to see that the micro cement finish really enhances the form. This was a material I had no prior experience of, so handing it off to another craftsman to apply the finish was excruciating. I don’t like to hand work off to other people, but it was a result that came out better than I could have hoped for. Shout out to James from Dynamic Surface Design.
Looking to the future, I’m very interested in developing my understanding and use of new materials. Truly beautiful items are produced when form and material are combined perfectly. I want to be highly proficient in traditional materials like wood, stone and glass, but also have the ability to create locally sourced bio-materials. Tones and textures unique to my surroundings.
|Moonlight Low Table|
Materials: Layered Wood, Reinforced Microcement
Dimensions: 200 x 100 x 37 cm
Weight: 80 kg (approx.)