Interview with designer Lance Stephenson
I always enjoy getting to speak with designers. It is fascinating to discover what types of materials they work with, why they choose those materials, what influences they have and who inspires them. This was true with an interview I recently had with Lance Stephenson. Lance creates furniture designs made of concrete and steel. I was immediately interested to learn more about his concrete creations.
Tell me a little about yourself.
I am self taught wherever my interests, or perhaps a better word would be, obsessions, take me. As a child my primary creative outlet was photography. I had my own darkroom from about the age of 12. As a young adult for about three years I carried a Pentax 6×7 (thats 5 pounds of camera) everywhere I went. I mean everywhere. I didn’t go a single rock concert or shop at the price club, or any where else that didn’t allow cameras in. Anyway I’m grateful for my obsessions, because I do not know how I’d get out of bed in the morning without them.
What made you decide to work in concrete?
Concrete has been an interest for me for some years. I have researched construction technique and materials quite a bit. I am building some structures for my future home and work. In so doing I have developed a great admiration for this material. It is capable of far more than side walks and tilt up buildings. Concrete can form resistant structures, like ocean going sailboats with hulls less than 1/2″ thick, or thin shell domes, vaults etc. To quote Pier Luigi Nervi, “Reinforced concrete is the greatest structural material yet devised by mankind”.
Can you tell me a little about your work and what inspired you to do these?
Well I just really enjoy making things, and I need a cottage industry. Furniture seems a good fit because I can employ any number of different disciplines, from design to finished piece. It is important to me that the work itself is not boring. The genesis for these tables came after the first time I saw ground and polished concrete floors and the modern tools used for doing this. Constructional process is often inspirational for me. I’ll see how one thing is done, and I’ll think about how I might exploit that for something similar or for something not so similar. That was just the start. I knew I didn’t want a big chunky design, like what comes to mind when you think of a concrete table or a concrete anything for that matter. My wife drew a picture of the basic leg shape on a cocktail napkin and boom, I was off on another obsession. The coffee table came first, then the computer table and dining table later. As far as personal aesthetics go, I tend to go for sleek structurally efficient designs.
Which designers influenced you?
I’m big on open web trusses and stressed skin panels and shape resistant structures. I’m sure I have been influenced by lots of designers of all the things around me, but the only one who I have been obsessed with is Pier Luigi Nervi. Why his is not a household name escapes me. Ever heard of Frank Loyd Wright? Of course you have, we all have. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against Wright. I think he was great, but he’s no Nervi, not even close. This man had an amazingly prolific career with many large public buildings of great importance. His structures were in a word truthful. To stand amidst a Nervi building one can plainly see what is holding the thing up. There is nothing there but the structure itself, never a hidden skeleton under a tacked on facade. Oh, did I mention these things are the most strikingly beautiful edifices ever created. He investigated, experimented, and took this relatively new material to an engineering and constructional apex, that few today, even know is possible, let alone already done and in such a grand way half a century ago.
How much are the tables?
Coffee table – $650
Computer table – $1400
Dining table – $2800