With a roster of discerning private clients and designers that includes Daniel Romualdez, Robert Couturier, Michael Smith and David Collins Studio, the bespoke work of Brooklyn-based plaster artist Stephen Antonson is much in demand. A specialist in lighting and furniture created using handpainted layers of chalky-white, matte plaster, Antonson is noted for his bold use of this simple material – favoured by Jean-Michel Frank, Serge Roche and Giacometti, and recognised for its subtle textural properties and resilience.
“People don’t necessarily think of plaster as a functional material, but we make tables ($3,000-$90,000) in all sorts of finishes that can be used as dining surfaces or for work purposes,” says Antonson of his sculptural, sometimes almost surreal, pieces. Each is created with a steel or wood base that is then layered with plaster much as a painter applies oil to a canvas, before being painted, sanded and finished with paint.
But it is Antonson’s light fixtures that clients are currently clamouring for; whether chandeliers, such as the 4m model with 18 lights made for a Hamptons home, or the geometric Morandi sconces ($4,200) and table lamps (from $3,500). Each of Antonson’s larger chandeliers (from $10,000) takes 12 weeks to produce, while smaller commissions can take just a few weeks. The latest additions to Antonson’s range are torchières ($6,500) that stand 2m tall and cast a gentle glow.
“The possibilities with plaster are almost limitless,” says Antonson – he has created entire rooms from the material, such as an entryway for designer David Mann that included walls, shelving, a mirror and ceiling covered in seashells. He has fun with smaller objects (from $600) such as Zig Zag candlesticks, bowls and cheeky faux-historical busts. “There is this misconception that plaster is fragile,” he says, “but it can withstand weight as well as spills, and can be extremely elegant. It may be a humble material, but it’s one that really lets you see the hand of an artisan.”