Now that the dust has settled and both the installation and the incredible husband-wife duo who created have had time to relax, we grabbed Stables and Lucraft for a chat about the epic, Ulmus Londinium.
Thanks for taking the time to talk through your beautiful project guys. For those who don’t know you, could you introduce yourself?
We are Tom Stables and Rebecca Lucraft. We met six years ago whilst studying for our MAs and have been working together for around 3 years and married for just over a year!
What’s your practice?
We combine our contrasting backgrounds of product and furniture design and textile design to create a rich sense of surface, colour and pattern within installations, interiors and furniture design. We are both very interested in people, place and meaning. This means we always do a lot of research at the start of each project.
We work with a range of materials and variety of processes means that projects and commissions are kept fresh, fun and exciting.
Why did you choose to do a piece inspired by the Elm tree? or why were you chosen?
The Conservation Foundation approached us to produce an installation to promote their Ulmus Londinium project. They are repopulating London with elm saplings that are resistant to Dutch elm disease, a disease that wiped the tree out 40 years ago from the London area. When we started looking at the heritage of London and elm trees it became clear there were lots of interesting objects, places and stories we could use as part of the installation. We came up with the idea of making a tree-like structure where the canopy was made from objects related to London’s elm heritage, and the Conservation Foundation gave it the go ahead.
What route does a project like this normally take? and did it go to plan?
Every project takes different route and this one was quite complicated.
Very early on we made quite an intricate scale model of the idea and that model proved to be invaluable when explaining the concept, getting people excited about the installation and also as a tool to help us visualise what we were trying to achieve. We have since made a lot more models rather than renders as part of our practise for other projects.
We found funding from a few funding bodies and we learned a lot about what help we could access. For instance, we had 50 volunteers from Timberland help us out for a day which was fantastic. I don’t think we would have looked for that kind of thing unless we were working at this scale.
This installation is the second attempt at building it. The first time did not work out for a variety of reasons. We learned a lot, and that rather painful experience has definitely improved the way we now work. We also found being part of the Makerversity community incredible beneficial during that time. Being surrounded by lovely friends with amazing skill sets definitely helped both in terms of support and practical/technical advice.
This time the installation went well and pretty much to plan and it was a huge relief to have the installation up.
I think with this type of project there is no normal route, this means there is always different challenges and lessons to be learned. If you are trying to do something new and interesting it will always be an unknown quantity and when making a plan there is a risk something you can’t plan for will happen. We had never made a tree structure with a canopy of 700 objects before, and there isn’t anywhere you can find out exactly how to go about it. But we have learned to seek advice and put in place the right support to make the process a lot easier.
What processes and materials did you use?
A lot of people presume the installation is made from Elm but because of the rarity of the wood, it is very expensive and not easy to come across. The installation is made from FSC certified Plywood for the objects which make the canopy and a larch timber for the structural frame. The 3-d objects we made by hand, with a lot of the shapes being CNC cut and some we routed out by hand too. The entire installation was made in Somerset House which made transporting the objects to the installation site very convenient.
“The entire installation was made in Somerset House”
What machines did you use to get the installation?
CNC cutter, router, chop saw, laser cutter, the-one-man-machine-named-Scott-Stannard (Makerversity in house technician and maker/ general badman).
Finally, what projects do you have coming up next?
We have been working with a moroccan glass factory and hopefully that will be producing some items next year. We are doing some interiors for a private client which have really interesting briefs, one of which starts production this month. We have also been working on an app to help people in intensive care to communicate with their families and medical staff, the initial design phase is over and now we are building it with a developer.
It’s all varied and they are all projects we are excited about. However, none are elm related so we will have to wait for another project to apply all this elm knowledge we now have!
Huge respect to the Tom and Becky for the beautiful creation that’s sitting in the entrance of the Somerset House’s New Wing. If you’d like to come and see it yourself full details can be found here.