The creative sphere of furniture design is ever evolving, defined and redefined anew vis-à-vis active cross-pollination between adjacent (and interlinked) domains of art and architecture. An upsurge in the propensity of viewing furniture as a piece of functional art is readily conspicuous in the design community, as well as its end-users. With function as the foundation, the creative process morphs into a playground of experimentation and unpredictability, apropos of materials, silhouettes or expression. As a consequence of such bold incursions, a refreshing design dialect emerges—one where the distinctions between design, art and sculpture are intentionally blurred to embrace their underlying likenesses.
Troy Smith, an artist, designer, sculptor, and painter based in Canada, conforms to and applies a similar language within his extensive oeuvre. Specialising in one-offs and limited edition works, he actively puts the spotlight on materials, proportions, and authentic ideas, that he ultimately weaves into pieces of art. Smith utilises common and noble material palettes in unique ways to blend them with artisanal craftsmanship, achieving works that are timeless, and whose value can be tangibly seen and felt. His body of work encompasses furniture, sculptural art and fine art pieces. Shedding light on his design philosophy, Smith shares, “My philosophy on design is that the best of it has a purpose and a function. When working on a new work, I like to bring beauty with materials and proportions. But it is important to me that the work has a functional use. Hence the name ‘functional art'."
Since the inception of his practice, Smith has worked with interior designers, architects, private collectors, developers, galleries, and museums. His distinctive designs cater to the rapidly evolving and popular contemporary design sector of the international art market. What is lucid in his creations is a knack for experimentation and an inclination towards eccentric forms. His recent launches are no different—laying bare semantics that refuses to be limited by the conventional, and epitomising playfulness as much as pragmatism. “It is also nice to try and incorporate a new way of looking at a material, to try and shine a new light on something that has possibly been overlooked,” the furniture designer notes.
Inspiration for Smith is omnipresent—in people, nature, other artworks, a new cityscape, and so forth. “I do feel creativity hits hard when you are on the road, travelling, and being exposed to new people and things. Inspiration is fluid, like a river. Sometimes it comes on strong and right away, and sometimes it takes a little wind to coax you back to shore,” the designer explains. A singular chair design by Smith that demands a second look is the 'Six-legged' chair—With meandering pipes for armrests and backrest, the chair's seat rests on six metallic legs as opposed to the usual four. The furniture piece is conceived in leather, ebonised oak and mirror-polished brass. The 'Off-the-Chain' dining chair continues this trend of allure with a play of rigidity and infirmity. Delicate stainless steel chains trace the rounded leather elements while also upholding them, an illusive frame that renders a structural solidity to the otherwise frail chain.
The 'Lightning' sofa appears to be straight out of a superhero movie set—Justifying its name, the outline of the sofa design features the erratic zig-zags often symbolising the natural phenomenon of lightning. Conceived in sheer white, the eye-catching seat utilises white mohair and mirror-polished stainless steel. Spherical lines come together to create the 'Sphera' coffee table. With a base constituting two asymmetrical brass hemispheres, the table design is crowned with a starphire glass top.
Balance is the protagonist of the 'Just Right' console. With multiple components—wooden slab, metallic prism, marble spheres and more—arranged in a way to achieve a frame that is ‘just right,’ the composition speaks of an elusive equilibrium attained through utmost care. An intergalactic aura emanates from Smith’s 'Zeus' cabinet that dons a contrast between mirror-polished stainless steel and sodalite marble elements, presenting themselves as portals to another realm. Another storage unit, but with a distinct expression, is the 'Striped Armoire.' The octagonal hardwood frame rests on four mirror-polished brass spheres. The vivid patterns on its skin, replicated in the handles, culminate in an optical illusion that invites interaction.
“Sometimes the material dictates the design, and sometimes the design dictates the materials,” relays Smith. In his creative endeavours, the product designer seeks materials that are long-lasting, beautiful, and timeless, such as wood, metal, stone, and glass. He contrives an intriguing palette by mixing materials with different textures, weights, and colours. The process of making is usually time-consuming and involves great effort and thought. This journey is underpinned by years of studying, learning, and endless trials and errors. “The process starts with an idea that I sketch on paper,” the Canadian designer says. The rough sketch is then refined on a computer and turned into proper workshop drawings that can be used for building. “With anything you build for the first time, there are often hiccups along the way, which, of course, are to be expected. But with research, experience, and planning, you can try to make the mistakes easier to fix and be problem-solved along the way,” the Canadian artist adds. With artist proofs and multiple levels of prototyping, Smith refines every piece of furniture that he builds.
Smith’s singular work straddles the prerequisites for functional objects while providing a leeway for the creator to leave traces of his personal and artistic flair. The product designs, courageously embodying originality, are capable of capturing the attention of visitors in any space they inhabit. Smith aspires to design for companies that resonate with his specific style and craft collections through those collaborations. He also wishes to hone his passion for sculptures and establish a gallery to house his creations. Through functional entities that vacillate between art and design, Smith reiterates how art can trickle into the most mundane objects and animate the vapid practicality with a dash of character.