Steven Clark of Den-Holm
Steven Clark is the craftsman behind Melbourne-based studio, Den-Holm. His work sits somewhere between art, furniture and sculpture, with bold, hand-crafted objects that instantly draw attention in any space they occupy.
His off-kilter pieces in chalky, white-washed Australian limestone are unique in both form and aesthetic. Never one to follow rules of material, Clark likes to experiment with different techniques and methods, using tools creatively to build his works. From small planters to large-scale pieces of furniture, the scope of his work is as varied as it is original.
We spoke with Steven to learn more about his distinctive practice and to find out how various life experiences have shaped his work.
Can you tell us a bit about your creative journey?
I started out as a stonemason when I was 16, then moved on to study Fashion, Textiles and Embroidery. Although I’m not restricted to working with limestone, my sculpture is an avenue that I feel combines all of those skills. Creatively, I enjoy looking at an object or project from a new viewpoint. I like to challenge the idea that there are only certain ways to do and make things, all the while trying different tools and methods. A drill can do more than drill a hole, a drill could be used for a million different things.
Can you share with us a bit about your childhood in Scotland? How has it shaped your work today?
I grew up in a small village of 600 with loads of family around me. From an early age, I was left to my own devices and had plenty of countryside to create my own games according to my imagination, which has made me independent and fond of freedom. I was given so much freedom to roam about, there are multiple farms in that area so I had endless opportunities to get up to no good. When I was a teenager I wanted to explore the wider world and so at 16 I decided to leave school to become a bricklayer/stonemason. From there I went on to study fashion, which was an interesting move, especially for my family and other people in the village to understand! I then studied Textiles in Glasgow (which is where I met my wife Bobby) and then went on to study embroidery at Manchester Metropolitan University. We were about to move to London when we decided to take a break and travel to Australia. I play Soccer and I had a friend who had put me in touch with a club over here so I thought, why not? We’ll spend a year there just working and travelling. But then during our year here, we realised we wanted to stay here for good.
What are you working on at the moment?
A large dining table with a sculptural base for a client in Sydney. It’s a challenging one and it’s testing me big time but I think it will be my best project to date.
What is it that you love about working with Australian limestone?
I have always worked with other mediums but I have brought myself back to working with stone. Considering the amount of knowledge I have about this medium in a way it’s strange that I didn’t attempt to work with it earlier on. With the Australian limestone I am using, I love its colour and the fact that it has a real character of its own. Depending on where it comes from sometimes there can be whole shells in there, you would have no idea how far back they date! I want to work with more diverse materials going forward but there is still a lot for me to get from working limestone at the moment, different ways to apply texture and colour that I’m still experimenting with, so I’ll keep at it for a while to come.
What can you tell us about your process of creating new aggregates, combining stone with concrete mix?
I’ve always worked with cement, it’s like a limestone terrazzo we make with pieces from around the workshop, we mix these with different types of cements and various additives. Having a lot of waste that lands on the floor, I like to find a purpose for it. The result has become its own product.
Is there a particularly memorable project or commission you have worked on that you can share with us?
I would say the project I did for Lucy Folk in Byron Bay. It was my first real commission, making sculptures to display her jewellery. I made the pieces in reaction to the jewellery they were to display and she gave me total free rein. It was an interesting job to work on to make these small, diverse sculptures for her jewellery with different textures and finishes and I really enjoyed it.
What are your favourite travel destinations?
Thailand and Scotland. I have recently done a few jobs in Byron Bay, so for right now, that has sort of become my favourite travel destination too. I haven’t been back home to Scotland for 6 years so am really looking forward to a trip there.
How do you like to work?
I like to work in the studio whilst listening to music – it could be anything from classical to French hip-hop depending on the mood! If I am on my own in the studio I tend to listen to more low-key songs like Damien Rice.
Do you have a favourite tool to use?
My chisel. Or the axe, actually the axe is quite a good tool to use, you can get a lot of frustration out with an axe.
In a few words, what are you currently;
Reading: I only read on holiday and I haven’t been on holiday for a while! I’m dyslexic so I don’t read a lot. The only books I really read and respond to are Irvine Welsh’s because they are written in Scottish slang and are really easy for me to understand.
Listening to: Right now, Damon Albarn
Learning about: Molten Metals and Foundry.
Watching: The TV series Taboo with Tom Hardy
Considering: Moving to Byron Bay, maybe in the next couple of years.
Planning: A trip home to Scotland. Also the next Den-Holm collection.
Credits: Den Holm
Photography: Bobby Clark and Nick Parko