French artist Hélène de Saint Lager’s home-cum-studio resembles a black corrugated-metal warehouse. It is an appropriate building for a woman whose creative practice involves casting, welding and building resin blocks that can weigh more than 150kg. Working in a variety of mediums – including aluminium, bronze and textiles – she has become best known for her resin tables (from €5,000), eye-catching pieces that can be seen in fashion stores such as Schiaparelli in Paris, as well as restaurants and hotels around the world.
Saint Lager started working with resin a decade ago, drawn to the material’s depth, fluidity and transparency, but its ability to hold suspended objects proved the real attraction. She soon began including bits of holographic film and small, coloured particles in her creations, and has since been commissioned to make resin furniture containing all manner of personal possessions. One client, for example, came to her with a very beautiful but very broken 1930s teapot and asked her to design a table around it, while another requested a pair of tables celebrating a bordeaux grand cru. “I froze crumpled vintage wine labels and vine leaves in the resin,” she says.
Saint Lager sees each commission as an ongoing collaboration, and clients are encouraged to visit her studio on the outskirts of Paris during the production process, which takes three to four weeks for a table. “The liquid resin is mixed with a catalyst and put into moulds,” she explains. “You have to make layers between 1cm and 2cm thick and then wait 24 hours before casting another. It can take more than 10 days to build a resin block, which I then break and mould again.”
And the work doesn’t stop there; the irregularly shaped legs and bases are also made from layers of material – first steel, then fibreglass, resin, primer and, finally, sheets of gold or silver gilding. The process may be laborious, but the end result is exquisite: part jewellery-like piece of furniture, part memory box of personal treasures.