broaching myths

Trent Jansen’s Broached Monsters collection has finally emerged as the result of 5 years of research and development.In collaboration with Melbourne’s Broached Commissions and some of the country’s leading craftspeople, the exquisite series of objects is destined for galleries and private collections across the nation. Jansen speaks to PracticeMakes about the stories behind the myths.

The initial aesthetic of the Pankalangu Collection came from some experimentation that I was doing with Marquetry whilst on a residency with Edra in Tuscany in 2010. I had wanted to make three dimensional marquetry, making hand incisions in timber veneer and then wetting the timber so that the loose sections of veneer would curl up as they dried. I showed these to Massimo Morozzi (Creative Director of Edra) at the time and he was not impressed with their brittle nature. This caused me to begin thinking about a substrate of some kind to strengthen these leaves of curling timber veneer.

An early test of the three-dimensional marquetry. Image courtesy Trent Jansen

At the same time Massimo was encouraging me to go to Central Australia to better understand the regional Australian identity that exists in that place. It was during a trip to Alice Springs that I ended up in a car with Western Arrernte elder Baden Williams, and we got talking about local mythical creatures. The one that really took my interest was Pankalangu, a creature that lives in a parallel dimension and who is a protector of country. This creature is so well camouflaged that he is completely invisible until it rains, when the water droplets falling over his body are caught by the light, and his form is exposed in a glistening silhouette.

Over a long period, this description of the Pankalangu and my experiments with three dimensional marquetry merged. I first used blue aluminium as a substrate for the veneer, in an attempt to imitate the beautifully iridescent blue wings of the central Australian locust. This was replaced by copper, which provided a golden, glistening edge around the ochery coloured timber of the outer surface.

While the first samples were made by hand, it soon became clear that computer navigated cutting would be the best way to create these overlaying patterns with the precision needed. Combined with the accuracy of the maker, Adam Price, this confluence of computer guided technology and old-fashioned hand skill was necessary to generate the final Pankalangu Wardrobe.

The Pankalangu Wardrobe is designed as an Australian creature, and as such I referenced the aesthetic of other Australian creatures in order to generate a new animal that feels like it belongs in this place. Both the locusts and perentie found in Central Australia hide a beautifully iridescent feature under a highly camouflaged, ochery outer skin. The locust exposes bright blue wings when it takes flight, and the perentie tastes the air with a deep blue tongue. Referencing these ochery outers and iridescent inners, along with the story of falling water droplets over a monstrous silhouette, I generated the form and surface treatment of the Pankalangu Collection.

The wardrobe and side table use Queensland walnut as their ochery outer skin, and the armchair makes use of wallaby pelt for its outer camouflage. The glistening edges that peak out past the timber or fur are made from copper, a material that catches the light, just like the raindrops that fall over the Pankalangu. As the viewer moves around these objects, the light catches some copper scales and misses others. Sometimes the scaly silhouette is lit up by glistening copper, and from other vantages these copper scales hide, camouflaged in the ochery coloration of the outer skin.  

It seems critical that objects made for the limited edition market use valuable, elemental materials, as it is these materials that maintain connotations of value, craftsperson-ship  and longevity.

The Hairy Wild Man From Botany Bay was a creature invented in England prior to the first fleet leaving for Australia. This was an imaginary creature that highlights the fear of a vast antipodean landmass that was thought to be the counterbalance of Britain on the underside of the globe. The materials used in the Hairy Wild Man From Botany Bay Collection are important in communicating this context. The chandelier, chaise lounge and bowl that make up this collection are constructed using materials that were known to the British during this period, as those who imaged the Hairy Wild Man From Botany Bay could have only done so from the foundation of their own vernacular – Early depictions of this creature combine the characteristics of known creatures or those that were already a part of British mythology.

The Hairy Wild Man From Botany Bay Bowl and Chaise Lounge make use of Icelandic sheep skin, the known animal with the longest hair, while the chandelier uses 5000 shards of hand cut, hand polished glass, to generate the feeling of a fiercely course and sharp, hairy creature. In the making of these objects it was important to use materials known in late 18th Century Britain, as these objects are the figments of imagination of those people who dreamed of a far off antipodean land mass, crawling with unknown, but fathomable creatures.

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View Trent’s work at his site and the results of his process here.