Nuts-and-Bolts Artist : Turning Hardware Into Designs for the Home


AFTER A career of building props such as giant hamburgers and toothpaste tubes for TV commer cials, British-born artist Chris Collicott sought more-personalized self-expression. So three years ago, he began haunting Los Angeles hardware stores and making vases out of sandblasted test tubes set into metal and concrete stands. The elegant vases soon caught the eye of the owners of Clodagh Ross Williams in Manhattan and Jo Wilder of Wilder Place in L.A. Collicott, a former graphic artist, also took up designing clocks--an ironic move for someone who dislikes wearing a watch. His “quake clock” is functional but missing half its outer rim. His whimsical cuckoo clock is a combination of steel, galvanized aluminum, copper and brass parts and features a small, feathered bird that pops out to cheep on the hour.

Collicott’s L.A. apartment doubles as a display and work space for his designs. There, he showcases many one-of-a-kind pieces. They include experimental furniture such as the “garden chair”--a throwaway to which he added a fence-style back with real ivy--and two free-standing, recirculating fountains. The fountains (one was designed for the Gallery of Functional Art in Santa Monica) are made of welded copper plumbing tubes.

Collicott strolls through salvage yards for inspiration, and though he has no formal training in metalwork or chemical finishing, he has learned by trial and error. “I didn’t know what I couldn’t do with metals and finishes,” he says, “so I went ahead and did what I wanted.”