Marek Landa is the founder of Crystal Caviar, a ‘guild’ of master glassmakers in the heart of the Czech Republic’s glass-making region and a leading supplier of artglass to the superyacht industry. But a fortuitous discovery recently convinced Landa to expand his product portfolio by drawing on the properties of a very different raw material.
The occasion arose when Landa was doing some restoration work at home and came across a supply of walnut from Kazakhstan once used to make the stocks of Kalashnikov rifles during the Cold War years.
“There were just two truckloads of the wood left and I bought it all,” says Landa. “When the artists I work with saw this beautiful hardwood they couldn’t wait to get their hands on it. One of our glass chandelier workshops has now been taken over for working the wood.”
One artist in particular, third-generation glassmaker Vlastimil Beránek (pictured above), has produced a series of stunning pieces using the 30-year-old Russian walnut. The monolithic sculptures resemble the elementary but graceful forms that the artist creates for his glass sculptures.
As the wood planks are sized for making rifle butts, the individual ‘building blocks’ of wood are shaped using a CNC machine, then laminated together and finished by hand before being treated with bees’ wax for a rich, natural finish. The first two sculptures were snapped up within a week.
“Some of the choicest wood is a root burl that has the most amazing colours and grain,” says Landa. “For such a tough wood, it’s so soft and tactile: you just want to reach out and touch it.”
The finished pieces vary in size with a diameter from around 45–65cm, but Beránek has also produced miniature sample models so that future clients can choose the dimensions and select the wood cut they prefer. Given the finite supply of walnut available, the sculptures are necessarily limited editions and no two pieces are exactly alike.
Prices start at around €30,000 for the smaller wood sculptures: a far cry from the €120,000 or more for an equivalent piece in glass (one of Beránek’s largest glass creations weighing over 200kg has sold for more than €1 million).
Working with a local foundry, the multi-talented Beránek has also started producing pieces in cast bronze and sculptures in stainless steel for Crystal Caviar, which required upgrading the materials and metalworking processes to ensure superyacht quality.
Crystal Caviar will exhibit at the Dubai International Boat Show from 28 Feb – 4 March, 2017.