I always like outdoor art that serves some functional purpose, whether as furniture, as fountain, as fireplace... the possibilities, of course, are endless. And functional outdoor art made from organic material really melts my butter, which is why I can't stop thinking about these stunning pieces by artist Laura Spector.
Connecticut-based Spector uses a vine called Oriental Bittersweet to create her elegant, gorgeously gnarled benches and other works. Those of you who are gardeners will likely cringe at the mention of Oriental Bittersweet, which was introduced from Asia back in the 19th century and proceeded to run wild, becoming a horribly invasive weed that strangles other trees and shrubs. Spector works with parks, townships, private companies and so on, removing the vine to help them keep their landscapes healthy, then using it for her artworks. Pretty ingenious, I think, to turn a often hated plant into an object of such staggering beauty.
Many of Spector's pieces are garden benches inspired by 18th-century British and French furniture traditions. She also produces furniture and accessories for interiors, like sconces and headboards. Personally I think the style lends itself more naturally to the outdoors, but in the right home with the right dramatic scale, some of her tables and chairs could be just right.
The works pictured above, from left to right:
• 1 - "Dangerous Beauty": a serious arbor for a seriously gigantic garden.
• 2 - 18th-century English Romantic bench
• 3 - French bench looks like it belongs in the Tuileries.
• 4 - A more modest arbor is right at home in a cottage garden.
• 5 - Entrance arbor: beats the pants off a fabric awning.
• 6 - A child's bench with a painted seat looks perfect for the seaside.
• 7 - Another whimsical child-size bench is crowned with a large mushroom cap.
• 8 - A giant Bittersweet ball would be perfect for an artful childrens' garden.
Images: Laura Spector Design