A designer who finds beauty in decomposition

ONE OF THE DESIGNER Marcin Rusak lasting memories of his childhood in Poland was spending time in his family’s greenhouses. His maternal great-grandfather and grandfather were flower growers in Warsaw, and although their business closed just before he was born, he often performed in these abandoned and overgrown glass structures. “I can still smell the heat and smell the weeds and the bacteria growing there,” he says.

It is therefore fitting that the 34-year-old has built up an international clientele for furniture and objects that incorporate flowers and plants in unexpected ways. About a decade ago, while in his masters program at the Royal College of Art in London, he began using flowers thrown from a flower market to create pictorial textiles, squeezing out natural pigments petals on silk – a metaphorical way to extend their lifespan, at least until the colors inevitably fade. “So much effort is put into the flower industry, which is huge and confusing,” he says. “We grow these living things that we keep for two weeks, and then they end up in a trash can. “

Since setting up his studio in London five years ago, he has developed these ideas, most notably with the resin furniture for which he is now best known. His Flora tables, cabinets and wall hangings, usually made with minimalist metal bases and frames, feature surfaces with dried flowers, leaves and stems, all coated in semi-translucent resin and composed by ‘intuition Says Rusak, in a style still reminiscent of Dutch lifes or East Asian lacquer. Then there is his furniture Permanent sculptures, created with thin cross slabs of resin infused with flowers that resemble stone speckled in bright colors. Rusak cuts the segments, in black or milky white resin, into nested pieces using a CNC milling machine, which leaves raw plant pieces exposed. Over time, some will decompose, crumble and fall, leaving small voids. “In a way, the room is alive,” he says. “And I want it to continue like this.”

PARTLY BECAUSE of Brexit, Rusak decided a few years ago to move his studio to Warsaw, where he rents three adjacent spaces, totaling 5,400 square feet, in an industrial park 10 minutes from the city center. There, amid prototypes in various stages of development, the bins and shelves are filled with dried or drying flowers, discarded flowers, and plant material that Rusak sources from various growers and vendors, including his mother and sister, who own a floral design business and shop in town called Mak 1904. As its production continues to expand – between here and a production site in Rotterdam, the workshop now manufactures more than 100 pieces per year – it has hired around fifteen employees, while also working with artisans. from across Europe, including metallurgists and glassmakers, who manufacture components for orders from private clients, interior designers and galleries such as Sarah Myerscough Gallery in London, Carwan Gallery in Athens and Hauser & Wirth’s Make Gallery in Somerset, England.

At Design Miami, open in December, New York’s Twenty-first Gallery will present four new Rusak pieces, all inspired by the work of Austrian architect and designer Josef Frank. Gallery owner Renaud Vuaillat, who says Rusak has “a kind of rock’n’roll quality,” thinks the most striking piece is a piece of furniture covered in metallic bronze sheets, made using a process in which Rusak creates hand-welded branches covered with wet, typically African Thaumatococcus daniellii leaves, chosen for their flexibility and strength. Their texture and veins are preserved in the metallization process, which begins with a thin protective layer of resin, followed by successive layers of molten zinc and bronze or brass often applied by Rusak himself, which spends countless hours. inside a ventilated chamber in his Warsaw studio, outfitted like an astronaut in protective gear, dispensing liquid metal from an industrial thermal spray gun that reaches 7,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The works refer to the mimicry of the foliated forms of Art Nouveau – only, in this case, they are literally made up of leaves. And while metallization envelops and, in a sense, preserves organic matter by giving it a lasting shape, it also transforms it.

Such duality is at the heart of Rusak’s practice, especially with what he calls his Perishable containers, formed using a mixture of tree resin, shellac, beeswax, plants, flowers and baking flour that is heated and pressed into molds. With their archaic, almost spellbinding beauty, these unique items are destined to degrade, sag and crumble over time. “These works exhibit the fragility of nature,” says Brent Dzekciorius, founder of London-based design firm Dzek and mentor to Rusak, who owns a vase from the collection. “It still smells … and I like that it ages along with me.”

Rusak extended this degradable concept, starting with an outdoor sculpture commissioned to accompany an exhibition of modern Polish art and design at the William Morris Gallery in London. On view until early next year, the seven-foot-tall tree shape will be covered in a shellac blend that will slowly erode, ultimately revealing a metallic core with floral patterns inspired in part by own designs. Morris Arts and Crafts. At the same time, Rusak continues to pursue his interests in botanical engineering and genetics, working with scientists studying the potential for data storage in the DNA of plants. He recently acquired an 18th-century neoclassical villa outside of Warsaw which he intends to transform into a design research laboratory and cultural center, with spaces for exhibitions, artist residencies and educational programs.

It is this blend of science and beauty, poetry and personal history that defines Rusak’s work and gives it depth. In the 17th century, Dutch flower paintings not only demonstrated the virtuoso skill of an artist, but reminded viewers of their own mortality. Today, Rusak’s ornate furniture teaches similar lessons. “What I like about this job is that it is never the same and that it has no limits,” he says. “It’s an endless pool for discovery.”

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