A recent transplant from nearby Edmonton, Zoë Mowat now lives in Montreal, where, in addition to “riding her bicycle, enjoying coffee and croissants and practicing her French,” she occasionally finds time to “create special objects that form a connection with the user and leave them challenged, comforted, and inspired.” It’s appealingly coincidental that she characterizes her work in this way, since my first thought about her Stack Lamp—showing now at IDS—was “it looks like it’s made from Tinkertoys.”
Stack Lamp. Designed by Zoë Mowat.
I may be dating myself with the reference, but these miniature construction materials for kids were especially popular during the 70’s. Featuring circular “joints” and cylindrical ‘beams,” Tinkertoys allowed you to construct multi-colored towers that rivaled the imagination of visionary architects/artists like Antonio Gaudí or Constant Nieuwenhuys. Though of a much humbler scope, Mowat’s piece forges an aesthetic alliance with Gaudí and Nieuwenhuys in the sense that it draws from the archetypes of childhood, from the imaginative impulse to fuse shape and color that all too often is extinguished by the time one “comes of age.”
Mowat’s work projects no such stifling limitations. The lamp—constructed of turned walnut, oak, steel, felt, and blown glass—is a creative exercise for grown-ups, since, much like my beloved Tinkertoys, it “engages its owner to pile, arrange and reposition the various forms as desired.” Revisiting her notions of how an object should “challenge, comfort, and inspire,” one sees that the Stack Lamp conforms to this philosophy in more ways than one. The piece’s building-block concept not only evokes the first imaginative impulses of childhood, it re-actualizes these impulses in a way that unifies imagination and refinement, allowing the consumer to put a distinctive stamp on an exquisite and “grown-up” design. And even if your inherent design sense leaves something to be desired, you can’t go wrong with Mowat’s elegant and sensuous components. No matter which way you stack it, this inventive light piece will shine every time.