I met Jonathan Bowles from the Model Submarine Club at a recent Bowerbird Bazaar at Wayville Showgrounds. I was drawn to the interesting work that he had on display; large screens, bench tops and wall hangings that had a very peculiar finish. His oxidised patina is something very special, and he has managed to capture this effect permanently on the surfaces and the result is fascinating. Every item is an original as the effect is unique. He produces a range of products; Japanese folding screens (my favourite), small tables, bench-tops, lamps and wall hangings.
Originally from Great Britain Jonathan Bowles migrated to South Australia in 2003 originally a carpenter/ shop fitter he was drawn to study fine arts degree and has worked in film and TV. His work was largely influenced by a memorable visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London where he was able to view first hand Japanese folding screens, an aesthetic that has lingered.
I was able to ask him a few questions regarding his work.
How did you come up with the name “The Model Submarine Club” for your business?
With a couple of my friends, Sarah (guitar and vocals) and Stephen (guitar) (I play the drums) we had cobbled together some songs and were musing over a design for the cover (all just done for our own fun) I had this image in my mind of a lake, mirror calm with the three of us on the shoreline frantically working our remote controls as beneath the water our ‘submarines’ toured the depths completely unseen. It seemed cheerfully absurd…………
What is your background?
My background is in Carpentry (Cabinet making) and Fine Art (Sculpture/ installation)
Where did you grow up and where did you study?
I grew up in a town called Isleworth near the Thames in West London, England. I was’nt that particularly that good at school and left when I was 16 and became a carpenter, would have preferred to have studied ornithology or model-making but my limited imagination at the time and my parents wish for me to “get a trade son” steered me toward an apprenticeship.
I eventually made it to art school as a mature student with the help of a bursary from Laura Ashley Ltd and studied at the Kent Institute of Art and Design, Canterbury, Kent, UK
Have you always liked creating furniture?
Yes, I have made many different things over the years and have been making screens for a good few years now, the lamps and tables are a fairly new enterprise.
What about designing furniture do you enjoy?
The process. The initial spark through to rough sketches and sometimes maquettes, a traditional route.
How is that you began working with copper patina?
Probably due to the era in which I grew up (60’s &70’s). Watching rockets headed toward the Moon. Some were wrapped in a material called Mylar, its gold-coppery colouring drew me in, perhaps similarly to the way ancient homo-sapiens may have been drawn toward a seam of gold waiting in a rock formation? Why do we like the things we like?
I do recall hounding my mother for bars of chocolate just for the foil wrapping. My sisters normally ate the chocolate!
But in later years it would have to be the Japanese painted folding screen (Byobu) which lead me to research gold leaf gilding. This in turn to the base metals copper and brass (my favoured material). Then through playing, trial and error I discovered marks and colours. I found them quite absorbing and beautiful, I had ‘bumbled’ onto a craft that stretched back thousands of years. Patination.
This material is certainly different what do you like about it?
It always surprises!
Do the colours change over time?
If left unsealed yes. But when I have achieved or found a shape or form that I find intriguing, beautiful I capture that moment by sealing it and if I’m looking for a high gloss ‘finish’ I may apply epoxy resin thus building up its lustre.