I grew up in a house where the main design assumption was an open internal staircase. The rooms and family life were centred around it. It was a 3-storey row house design, as impractical as it was popular in the 1990s. The stairs happened to be made chiefly of balustrades comprised of turned decorative balusters, the oaken pattern of which determined the atmosphere of the building’s interior.
Today, it is rather difficult to justify the need to use such aesthetically intense balustrade elements. Their decorativeness results simply from the wood processing technology and from how easily one can obtain a pattern in a revolving piece by using a chisel. A very strong atavistic force, which demands disturbing the uniformity of a cylinder or cuboid, is also used. This is an absurd action which has little to do with design. Today, if similar actions are performed by a designer instead of by a carpenter, it is usually a tongue-in-cheek reference to art history or a formal quotation.
Hence the idea for a sock-wearing baluster. By adding a feet to such a baluster, I further enhance the object’s absurdness. Thus, the baluster becomes a free-standing object. Its decorativeness has become independent from its utilitarian context and faces the user without all that utilitarian background of the balustrade or handrail. It is its moment of truth and I will be the judge. Will its concept of decorativeness hold its ground in such a situation?
The leg smoothly and naturally comes out of the vertical element. The white paint is a subtle and aesthetic marking of an item of clothing. This smoothness is further enhanced by belts, which also duplicate the pattern present in the object. As a whole, it looks both bizarre and nice. The clash between rusticity and sport pop symbolism is very surprising, but justified in some strange way.
Another design, which is just as bizarre, is ‘the Rocket’. It utilises a similar clash of two worlds. In the case of the rocket, the soaring shape of a baluster is the inspiration. This in turn has brought outer space to my mind. If we add to the upper part a cone turned from a similar material, and if four triangles appear in a radial arrangement in the lower part, then we launch my favourite balustrade element into a completely different… space. Suddenly, it becomes a space vehicle straight out of the Cold War or Elon Musk’s bold attempts at space conquest.
Another object in which I use a baluster is a scooter. The object was conceptualised during my artistic residency in Debrecen. I stayed there for two weeks with my wife and son. We took two scooters with us, just in case. They are small and easy to squeeze into a car. The centre of Debrecen is not vast; it can be traversed on foot quite fast. Nevertheless, those vehicles proved to be a godsend. They definitely helped on the everyday route between the boarding house, restaurant and workplace. However, the lack of a third scooter was an issue. Two of us managed to ride one of them together (they are solid devices after all, having a load capacity up to 100kg), but then I had the idea of making the third one that we were missing.
I made my way to a DIY shop, where I – very spontaneously – began to select the things I needed; in the woodwork section, I came upon a thin and slender baluster, having dimensions exactly matching those of the vertical element of the handlebars. I thought that that part of a scooter was what a baluster had been made for. I did not manage to finish the object during my stay; I took the purchased materials with me to Poland, and I completed the design in workshop conditions and in cooperation with a carpenter, without rushing it.