Thursday, January 14, 2010


For E.R. Butler, Inc. in Manhattan, a company that specializes in quality architectural hardware and home accessories, we are designing a series of limited-edition birdcages in the Chinoiserie style. This unusual project came to us by way of the company's founder, Mr. Rhett Butler, whose wish is to use his company's precision machining and foundry capabilities to their fullest by challenging his craftsmen to execute exceptional designs in a variety of noble materials.

Designing in the Chinoiserie style of course has very little to do with actual Chinese precedents; traditional Chinese birdcages are in fact simple objects made of fine bamboo or wood strips, as pictured below. Rather, Chinoiserie references the West's fantasy view of the East, and employs a repertoire of forms and details largely foreign to Chinese aesthetics. It is a flight of fancy whose vocabulary of decorative embellishments are intended to evoke picturesque whimsy.

Heading this post is the prototype of the first in this series, fabricated of turned and laser-cut brass. With a stylistic nod to the Biedermeier style, the cage, which stands 22 inches high, is designed to hold smaller birds such as finches and canaries.

The turned-brass bells and the scrolling corner volutes are typical Chinoiserie details, as is the incurving "roof," doubly so thanks to its doubled curvature.