A Passion for Plaster
“I love the versatility of plaster,” says Antonson. “You can sculpt it, tint it, paint with it. It’s such a prosaic material, but it can be shaped into pieces that belie its humble makeup.” Its whiteness is also part of the appeal. “By keeping it white, I’m allowing light to play up the plaster’s texture and imperfections. I don’t want color to distract from the form. I am reminded of the answer Richard Meier gave when asked why his buildings are all white: They are not white; they reflect all of the colors surrounding them.”
Depending on the piece, Antonson creates his work in two ways: sculpted in clay and then cast, or constructed and then wrapped in plaster. “I sculpt the sconces from clay and then cast them,” he says. “Pieces like chandeliers and tables I fabricate in wood or steel, then put on several layers of plaster to ensure stability.” Every piece gets lots of sanding followed by multiple coats of paint “so that, in the case of a table, you can eat off it.”
“I am an artist,” says Antonson. “It just so happens that I also design objects that are functional.” His work always begins with pencil drawings, followed by wood or clay prototypes. Does he have a muse? “I draw a lot. And I look around at everything: galleries, museums, books, and just the visuals of everyday life—a door handle, a streetlamp, a handrail, a fence.” Left: The anatomy of inspiration: a wall of sketches, photos, and textures.
The most common misunderstanding about plaster is that it’s fragile. “If you think about the old-school casts doctors used to keep a reset broken bone in place, you get the idea,” says Antonson, whose dining tables easily accommodate heavy centerpieces, dishes, flatware, elbows—and even those dreaded red-wine spills. Left: Plaster shells destined for a ceiling installation commissioned by David Mann create a pristine organic tableau. “And my wife wants me to make her a necklace with the small ones,” notes Antonson.