follow us on:

      follow GPI Design on Google Plus  follow GPI Design on Pinterest

Beneath the Surface Blog

Thursday Salute to Originals: Sculptural Furniture by Baltasar Portillo

GPI Design - Thursday, February 23, 2012
Pin It

It might be hard to tell what this abstract structure is at first sight. Artist Baltasar Portillo's unique collection, Armadillo and Lodge Chair, is a statement of his interpretation on functional sculpture. A native Salvadorian, Baltasar is currently working in Europe. We are honored to have Baltasar share his ideas behind this inspirational collection. 

gpidesign: What is your inspiration behind the Armadillo and Lodge Chair collection?

Baltasar: I wanted to create subtle sculptural accents that you could see through them, and not interrupt your view of the space, but at the same time to have a strong sculptural presence as you focus on the piece. I have always been very fond on the work of Sol Lewitt, and somehow, I try to translate his language in my own words to create my pieces.

gpidesign: So when a viewer is looking at your pieces, what do you want him or her to see?

Baltasar: I often hear so many debates of the difference between art and design or art and function, personally, I don’t see any difference, and I hope the public will understand this approach when they look at my work. My work is not a piece of furniture where you will sit and read the entire Sunday paper. It is a piece you make a statement with, it is a throne, where you sit down and enjoy your success, or simply look at it as an sculpture.

gpidesign: The architectural form of the above Armadillo chair reminds us of a spanning bridge. How did you work with geometry in these chairs?

Baltasar: The geometry is the results of a language I love to use and the necessity to support the structure of the piece. The process of the creation of the pieces, is spontaneous. Although there is a central idea before starting the construction of the piece. There is no pre-designing in the manufacturing process, but rather the exploration of the artist momentum of creativity . 

The process of creation begins by imagining a form and deconstructing it, but the form changes as the structural issue to support the form becomes relevant arriving to the form dictated by the need of the structure to support itself and this is pure geometry.

gpidesign: How would you draw the line between functional sculpture and pure artistic sculpture?

Baltasar: Some people say that art should communicate something, that it should be meaningful, that art has no use, that if you can sit on it, it's not art. I believe that there is no line between the different arts, now days, it just depends on how you want to perceive it. Kids are usually the best curators, because they have no preconceptions, they follow emotions and to me that is what art should do: create some sort of emotional contact with you, without having to go into a deep philosophical explanation to determine what does the piece means.

Our most sincere appreciation to Baltasar Portillo for sharing his insights with us. We hope to work on a project which is lucky enough to be home to one of your chairs! You can visit if you want to see or purchase the Armadillo and Lodge Chairs. 

Image Credits: outdoorzgallery

Thursday Salute to Originals: The Incredible Art of Eggshell Carving

GPI Design - Thursday, February 16, 2012

Eggshell carving is an incredible craft technique that involves extreme attention to detail and patience. Eggshell carving artists usually devote hundreds of hours of practice and work into perfecting carving skills and creating intricate eggshell sculptures. Brian Baity is one of them and today, we are looking at some of his custom works.

Brian’s carved eggshell portfolio includes ostrich egg, rhea egg, emu egg, and goose egg. He knows the characteristics of each kind of eggshell very well and is able to bring out their beauty with his artistic vision; his "imagination provides unlimited opportunities to influence and transform an accidental broken egg into a graceful, exquisite finished art piece.”

By altering carving techniques, Brian creates different textures on eggshells. The polished and smooth surface of this calla lily set it apart from the rest of the porous eggshell.

eggshell carvingPin It

Rhea eggs (rheas are flightless birds native to South America) are on average less than half the size of ostrich eggs. This particular work is inspired by pathways in Chinese and Japanese gardens. The voids resemble large rocks while small perforations are stone pathways. Through the marriage of the egg shape and the circular form for the path, Brian is expressing that “all things come back to their point of origin; sooner or later.”

Eggshell CarvingPin It

Emu Eggs

eggshell carvingPin It

Like we’ve all experienced, behind each successful piece of work is devotion and a process of trial and errors. No matter if it’s as small as an eggshell or big as a 15 foot long backlit table (watch our build process here), the creation process can be painstaking but the result will make all the hard work worth it.

Does this remind you of any challenging project you have successfully accomplished? Was the devil in the details? We’d like to hear about it!

Image Credits: Brian Baity

Thursday Salute to Originals: Dare to Imagine

GPI Design - Thursday, February 09, 2012

Once in a while, there will be an artist who challenges our imagination and understanding of design. Some blogs call Nancy Fouts’s artworks “Surrealism” because her sculptures always comprise of two totally unrelated objects. Looking at the following images, I'm so intrigued to figure out the connection between the objects and materials she used in each work even though there might be none. Usually, for the purpose of reconstruction, objects would be broken down into elementary factors like texture, shape, size, or color before they are reassembled. Clearly, Nancy has a unique vision. She said: "I hoard stuff in boxes and then I lay it all out and many ideas happen like that." (BBC)

Nancy FoutsPin It

Nancy FoutsPin It

Pin It

Pin It

Sculptures like "Butterfly Dart" or "Cactus Balloon" hold a trace of delicacy in their dominant toughness. Nancy captures the essential character of each component and marries them to create unexpected statements. For me, it is so much fun to think about the possibilities of designing backlit projects without considering technique restraints or the law of physics.

Let's imagine away. If you were given the chance to design anything you want with absolutely no rules or constraint, what would it be?

Image Credits: Nancy Fouts

Thursday Salute to Originals: Paper/Origamic Architecture

GPI Design - Thursday, January 26, 2012

We rarely talk about paper art in this blog, mainly because the architectural industry doesn’t generally regard paper as a material suited for construction sites and we are more excited to see designs with materials such as natural stone, glass, wood, and resin. However, paper is still important to the GPI Design team in the design and drawing phase. (Any designers who have eliminated sketching in the creative process in favor of computer programs? We move back and forth between physical model, sketches, and CAD.)

The paper art we are looking at today is called Paper Architecture, according to the artist, Ingrid Siliakus. It refers to the art of creating an object out of a single piece of paper. This particular art form, which is also known as Origamic Architecture, is developed by a famous Japanese artist Masahiro Chatani and was first used in designing greeting cards or holiday cards.

The subject of Ingrid’s work ranges from the world’s renowned architecture buildings to abstract sculptures. Each object is just one single paper and can be folded back into a flat plane. (If I’m lucky, I probably can cut out a snowflake with one piece of paper. A whole 3-D building?!). Ingrid describes the process of outlining, cutting, and folding each paper as building a real structure, the construction of which requires intense attention to detail.

paper architecture big city detail

‘Big City’, 2011. The lower part of one of the four sides.Pin It

‘Big City’, 2011.Pin It

Cosmopolitan third edition, 2011.Pin It

Palicio del marques de Salamanca, 2007. Pin It

Concert Hall, 2003. The actual building is a design of Frank Gehry. Pin It

When we are all busy drawing our skyscrapers on the computer, it’s refreshing to see someone who creates hers out of plain paper by hand. Ingrid’s paper architecture reminds us that dedication to craft, precision work, and unleashing the potential of material can create statement pieces.

Thursday Salute to Originals: Incorporate Perception into Design

GPI Design - Thursday, January 19, 2012

What is good design? Asking this is like asking “What’s your favorite food?” or “What’s your favorite movie”? Throw the question out there and you will hear a thousand answers. The definition of good design is very subjective and almost nonnegotiable. In the end, as individuals, we all look at the same matter from different perspectives and based on different sets of aesthetic values.

Designers understand the meaning of “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” better than most. Today we highlight two designs that cleverly play with the viewer’s perspective in their artistic expressions.

In this installation CT Umbra created by Nondesigns for Lexus, viewers are invited to walk around and experience the sculpture from all sides. It was comprised of 2,500 half-inch anodized aluminum bars. When seen from the front, it’s a luxurious golden Lexus. When you walk to the rear, the car gradually turns into light green and blue appearing more eco-friendly. The two concepts that define the Lexus brand, luxury and hybrid, are well-perceived.

CT Umbra by Nondesigns Pin It

In the interior design world, designers and artists are also considering how to make their design unique from their audience’s viewpoint. The following installation by Matt Bilfield will make a signature décor piece on any living room wall. It is named “Peggy” and is a recreation of Roy Lichtenstein’s pop art painting. The painting technique, divisionism, is taken away from its traditional medium paper to be applied in a 3D form. Over 2,700 hand cut, sanded, and painted dowels are used to create this art piece. The physical installation is right there and the final step to turn it into a complete artwork all depends on you, the viewer. How exciting is that!

Peggy by Matt Bilfield Pin It

In our last blog post, we mentioned that we love to work with natural stone materials because they remind us of so many beautiful things in nature. From one certain angle, this particular pattern looks like the sunset sky, and from another, it is the roaring ocean. Perception generates inspiration. Our brains are looking forward to being stimulated by our eyes more often.

Image credits: TheCoolHunter, Matt Bilfield

Thursday Salute to Originals: Lacquer Wares, An Ancient Art Invention

GPI Design - Thursday, January 12, 2012

On Tuesday of this week, we shared on Twitter some amazing three-dimensional goldfish art pieces painted by a Japanese artist Riusuke Fukahori and we all loved it. There’re always some ancient oriental art forms and techniques that just never fail to wow us. I came across this collection of Japanese lacquer wares which was on exhibition during New York’s Asia Week 2011 and was totally blown away.

Lacquer is a liquid exuded from certain lacquer trees growing in East Asia that dries and darkens in color (another definition is "a liquid made of shellac dissolved in alcohol, or of synthetic substances", according to the dictionary). It produces a durable coating for wood or metal and can be polished in any sheen level desired. Modern application of lacquer onto furniture can add a hint of exotic touch to highlight those pieces and make them stand out.

Above: Sun and Moon Box,Yoshio Okada (b. 1977)

This elegant-looking cherry blossom writing box (intended to store ink stone and brush) is coated with high-quality polished black lacquer with a décor of cherry blossoms all over its five sides. Cherry blossom is the national flower of Japan and it stands for transient beauty. The flower petals are painted with gold lacquer of two tones.

Above: Cherry Blossom Writing Box, Anonymous lacquer artist

The Deer Writing Box is painted in a gold lacquer ground and the deer are formed in carved mother-of-pearl and pewter. The inside cover is decorated with a stylized current in inlaid pewter.

Above: Deer Writing Box, Soeki (ac. Meiji period)

The Japanese seem to have a special interest in goldfish. What’s a better medium than black lacquer to bring this little creature’s color and movement to life? The contrast in color and the placement of the swimming goldfish on top and sides make the whole tea caddy playful yet graceful.

Above: Koi Tea Caddy, Mushu Yamazaki (b. 1966)

I’m very intrigued by the glossy finish lacquer creates on these wood surfaces, reflecting light and making the object appear more rare.  Here at GPI, we are all about innovative surfaces. So I can’t help thinking maybe lacquer can be applied to certain translucent surfaces to be used for backlighting and it may produce unexpected results. Have you ever seen any backlit panels that incorporated lacquer? Or do you think it would be a possibility? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

(To read more on this Japanese lacquer ware collection, please visit and download Erik Thomsen’s article “Golden Treasures: Japanese Gold Lacquer Boxes”)

Image Credits: Erik Thomsen, “Golden Treasures: Japanese Gold Lacquer Boxes”

Thursday Salute to Originals: Cubic Kite Sculpture Takes Flight

GPI Design - Thursday, January 05, 2012

Snow just started to accumulate here in the Cleveland area but somehow I’m already picturing myself embracing the spring breeze, like jogging in my shorts or flying a kite in the lake park. [Ok, I lied. I don’t fly kites, not since I was a little kid. Maybe that’s why I was attracted to this weighty-looking cubic kite created by artists Heather and Ivan Morison.] How did they manage to do it?

Cubic Kite Flying Sculpture Shining Man

This type of 3D kite that actually flies has a bit of history and it was originally called Tetrahedral Kite when first developed. In 1903, innovator Alexander Graham Bell published an article in National Geographic magazine proving that large-scale kites are possible. Instead of constructing one big wing, he built a kite in a tetrahedral structure with a number of small wings. The more small wings it has, the stronger the kite becomes because the surface to weight ratio is optimized.

Tetrahedral Kite Design Flying Close Up View

Today, Heather and Ivan Morison recreated the tetrahedral kite with a modern name, the 3D-Printed Little Shining Man Kite. They used carbon fiber rods, nylon connectors, and Cuben Fiber to “achieve the perfect combination of strength and weight”. The final sculpture would be comprised of three such structures and expected to fly once a year in the Jersey bay area.

Texture of Flying Kite Material Up Close View

The deceptive visual effect of Little Shining Man reminds me of how our team works with systems of delicate surfaces and technologically advanced LED lighting, creating structures that appear effortless once complete.  Just like flying the 3D kite, we are looking forward to changing the impossible to the possible on more of our projects in the new year, and reminding ourselves to infuse our work with a bit of playfulness!

Shining Man Kite Design Takes Flight in Air

Image Credits:

Pin It

Thursday Salute to Originals: Turning Deterioration into Colorful Creations

GPI Design - Thursday, December 01, 2011

In our neck of the woods, it’s starting to change seasons. Not just from fall to winter, but from “orange barrel season” into the dreaded “pothole season.” It’s bad enough during summer when highways are lined with miles of orange barrels making any kind of travel frustrating. But all the snow, freezing temperatures, salt, and plows that come with the brutal Ohio winters really start to cause some problems. Potholes become craters in the ground, and often, a simple drive into work can seem more like off-roading in the mountains. In short, it’s a pain.

Juliana Santacruz Herrera, in a make-lemonade-out-of-lemons moment, has decided to do something about those unsightly pot holes. Instead of just complaining, she decided to turn them into works of art. Using a variety of yarn, she fills the potholes, following their intricate contours, creating a very fluid and organic installation. The whimsical patterns and colors, combined with the juxtaposition of the hard and soft materials, make these pesky potholes suddenly playful and quirky. Furthermore, the yarn highlights the shape of the pothole, calling attention to an odd beauty that goes widely unnoticed.

Restoring Pothole Deterioration with Yarn Art Installation

Herrera isn’t the only one going along with this idea of creating art from deteriorating infrastructure, though. Jan Vormann also has a similar mindset and uses Legos to “repair” the cracks and fissures in aging buildings. Similar to the potholes, Vormann follows the contours of the crack, and fashions individual Legos to those parameters, even around curves and corners. It is, no doubt, a time consuming endeavor, but the irony that comes from using childhood building blocks to repair actual buildings, makes it worthwhile and all the more interesting.

Restoring Cracks in Stone Buildings with Legos

While were not entirely sure how functional or permanent these installations are, they do offer an interesting view point on things that are usually considered an eyesore. Both Herrera and Vormann add a breath of fresh air into these deteriorating objects, giving them new life and a little bit of spunk along the way.

Image credits: Dornob

Thursday Salute to Originals: These sculptures are bananas….B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

GPI Design - Thursday, November 17, 2011

If you thought stone, wood, and clay were the only media available to make a sculpture, think again. Bananas might just be the new craze catching on in the world of sculpture. Yes, bananas.

Carved Banana Face Sculptures by Keisuke Yamada

Japanese artist, Keisuke Yamada, prefers to use peeled bananas as the canvas for creating his intricate figures. Using toothpicks and a small spoon, Yamada meticulously carves away areas of the delicate fruit to reveal detailed sculptures. With the fruit itself and other pop culture references serving as inspiration for the forms, he has created everything from comical cartoons to fire breathing dragons.

Unfortunately, bananas aren’t the most permanent of materials. After about 30 minutes, the fruit starts to brown and discolor, leaving only that small window of time for Yamada to compete his works of art. And after they start to spoil, he doesn’t let the fruit just go to waste. He eats the banana, leaving no evidence of the sculpture behind. What a peculiar, nutritious, and fleeting work of art!

Image credits: ObviousWinner

Thursday Salute To Originals: You Won’t Believe Your Eyes

GPI Design - Thursday, November 03, 2011

We’ve all seen optical illusions. They are a fun and interesting way to really get your brain ticking. But we’re willing to bet you haven’t seen any quite like this. No computer alterations here, just amazing talent and an intriguingly original point of view. The question is, is it a 2D artistic painting, a 3D scene, or both?

Alexa Meade, an American installation artist, has made quite a name for herself with her unique artistic expression and point of view. Instead of using paint to depict reality, Meade uses reality to depict expressionist art. Achieved by painting directly on her subject matter, essentially using her models and surroundings as living canvases, an amazing trompe l’oeil is achieved. Her innovative technique compresses the entire scene into a matte 2D plane that reads as an expressionist painting, not a physical reality with spatial relationships.

Alexa Meade Reality Painted Man

The strokes, movement, and color variances of the paint disguise the depth, contours, shadows, and highlights of the three dimensional space, and fool the eye into believing they are viewing an artistic representation of reality on canvas, not reality itself.

Meade uses this technique in both her photography and live installations. The distortion of space through both mediums is apparent and visually stunning. Whether looking at a photo or physically experiencing the live scene, it is easy to be fooled by her unique talent.

Alexa Meade Painted Woman Art Installation Image

Alexa Meade Painted Woman Art Installation Reality 

Meade’s ability to deconstruct reality in its three dimensional form and turn it into a flat surface offers a new appreciation for both the 2D and 3D artistic expressions. Her refreshing approach to this dichotomy makes her artwork truly noteworthy and one that ultimately alters our perception of reality and physical space.

Image credits:MyModernMet