Bec Brittain’s Lattice Candelabra

When we last did a studio visit with Bec Brittain, we made a brief mention of her new candelabra design, which — as depicted in that slideshow — was just a formless pile of metal tube segments at the time. While it’s still something of a work in progress, Brittain decided to share it with Sight Unseen readers today anyway, originally planning to photograph it on the High Line and then ultimately finding inspiration a bit closer to home. And when we say home, we mean the building that houses her Red Hook studio, also referenced briefly in our March story: the E.R. Butler headquarters and production facility, which we only got a quick glimpse of that day, but whose awesomeness we may have failed to properly convey. It’s a 10,000 square foot renovated warehouse with a hauntingly beautiful courtyard and the kind of gritty factory floor most makers go nuts for, and in the photos she shot for us, Brittain borrowed that industrial scenery to use as a metaphor for her own working process. Check out the results here, along with her explanation for how she got the shot, then follow her on Facebook to see how Lattice eventually evolves into a final product.

“This is the first version of my Lattice candelabra; it may be a prototype, or it may change substantially. I’m still trying to engineer how the pieces fit together. The shape of each steel module is very simple — just two angled cuts on square stock — and they’re all identical save for the three different lengths. By combining these simple shapes in different ways, flipping them upside down or grouping them differently, you can create more complicated compositions that feel like faceted crystals or a cityscape. I use crystalline shapes in so much of my work, but this is the first piece that approaches them from a basic crystal structure (on the atomic level those structures are called lattices) and shows how a particular combination of lattices can begin to get elaborate.

“I photographed the candelabra right outside the machine shop in the large industrial building my studio is in. It’s nestled in a barrel of metal scrap; I suppose it’s growing out of the scraps, though it could equally be sinking into them. It’s a reference to the production of the candelabra, as there’s always scrap material left behind when the piece is machined out. Just as much, however, the photo is about referencing my surroundings as I create these objects: I spend a lot of time with craftspeople in dirty workspaces making them as perfect as we can and hoping they find loving, clean homes. There’s a lot of beauty in those workspaces, and I wanted to try to show some of it. One of my absolute favorite things about the machine shop are these beautiful, shiny metal curlicues that are left behind from the production process there, so when I saw all the full barrels, I had to take advantage.”