“There are many different colors in birch bark– grey, blue, rose, green” says Sophie Gallardo as she picks up a piece of bark in her studio in Les Puces de Saint Ouen. She points out many subtle hues and then starts to explore the knots and striations and her imagination takes flight. It is clear that her Birch Bark project is a labour of love.
The objects she creates weave together her interest in nature and antiques to tell a story that is poetic and even magical. Launched in 2011 her work has already been spotted by the interior designer Jean Louis Denoit, who acquired pieces for one of his projects. And Galerie Perrotin has purchased from them as well!
“Our work is creativity born of necessity, says Sophie’s partner George-Guillaumme Cassan. Both have long and interesting careers in antiques and furniture making in Les Puces and together they felt compelled to create something new in this market while respecting the world of antiques in which they live.
Taking inspiration from their many walks in the woods with their dog Tindalos and, importantly, the enrapturing work of cult figure Janice Janet, they conceived of this idea to re-imagine furniture covered in birch bark marquetry. Unlike the rustic Adirondack furniture found in the US, which is covered in this bark and goes further by incorporating entire branches as structural elements, Sophie began experimenting by acquiring antiques chest and tables in Les Puces. She and George-Guillaumme choose pieces such as consoles, cabinets and frames that speak to them – objects with soul and wonderful solid construction. They take these existing objects and give them a new story.
Sourcing and preparing the bark is a labor-intensive process. The bark is sourced from fallen trees in the forests around Paris. Sophie notes that unlike most other plants in the forest, insects do not eat birch bark; and it is waterproof. Therefore, it survives long after the tree has fallen and naturally creates a durable material for use in decorating furniture.
She has created a special glue formula that is placed on the back of the bark once it has been cleaned. This makes the bark stronger and pliable. She hammers each piece of bark to make sure that it is strong and that no pieces will break off. “This furniture is built to last.”, remarks George –Guillaume.
Then the fun really begins. You can see Sophie’s creativity and talent emerge. “It’s like couture.” says George-Guillaumme. She starts fitting disparate pieces together and pointing to mountains, lakes and animals such as owls in the bark. She creates a story with the bark that will envelope the structure.
Amythyst, rock crystal, labrodite and other precious stones in their natural form protrude from the objects surface, as glorious exclamation points to the natural beauty of the birch bark.
The partners declare, “Nature is the real artist. We serve nature.”
There work will be presented at Revelations – Le Salon des Métiers d’Art et de la Création at the Grand Palais in Paris, 10-13 September 2015.
All photos courtesy of www.birchbarkfurniture.com or taken by Artecase/Design Link