March 2016

Having launched in 2010 with a striking range of skirting boards, ceiling roses, architraves and cornices inspired by the work of Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry, Solomon and Wu now spends much of its time developing bespoke products for interior designers and architects, from door handles, mirrors and lighting to furniture and wall panels in materials including plaster, resin, fibreglass and metal.

We caught up with Jake Solomon to discuss all things sculptural and what the future holds for this blossoming company.

Firstly, where did the name Wu come from?

Wu is a very special and silent partner who was there from the beginning and helped craft the direction of my shop. He is very important, very influential and my good friend who demands anonymity (there is no Wu. I just liked the sound of it. I think it has a ring of intrigue).

You haven’t always been in the art business, tell us how you got into what you do now?

I have always loved mouldings and having decided to quit basketball coaching in the US I moved back to live at my parent’s house in France and would often go to the Louvre in Paris. I was impressed by the friezes and mouldings in the huge rooms and the interior detailing throughout. I wondered why no one was doing it in a modern setting. I taught myself how to make moulds and cast in various materials over a period of a few months and created a small collection to launch in 2010.

Solomon & Wu now develop all kinds of bespoke products for interiors, but tell us more about your beautiful plaster work for cornices, architraves and skirting?

We are in a golden age of architecture in terms of large scale structures and new design; I am trying to capture some of that spirit in the ranges of plaster work that we do and bring it into the interior of everyday buildings. We are currently developing a new pixelated cornice based on the traditional dentil moulding from Georgian buildings.

What is it about plaster that fascinates you so much? Have you always favoured this material?

There is a huge range of different plasters on the market, all of which have different properties; every batch is different in tone and texture and this is something which really fascinates me.

Who or what inspires you?

People who think for themselves and are not afraid to make mistakes. I’m also inspired by people who openly share their work with others, I don’t believe in trade secrets!

What’s the best project you have worked on?

We did a lovely wave cornice for a West Village Brownstone in NYC, it was a really dramatic room with a hand drawn wallpaper by a group of art students and beautiful reclaimed furniture. It felt like a true one-off.

How long does the process of cornicing a room take? Does just one person do the entire process?

With a standard cornice it normally takes one person around one day but with our cornices it usually takes two people two days to do the same room. There is a lot more finishing involved in our process.

What is it about plaster that fascinates you so much? Have you always favoured this material?

There is a huge range of different plasters on the market, all of which have different properties; every batch is different in tone and texture and this is something which really fascinates me.

Who or what inspires you?

People who think for themselves and are not afraid to make mistakes. I’m also inspired by people who openly share their work with others, I don’t believe in trade secrets!

What’s the best project you have worked on?

We did a lovely wave cornice for a West Village Brownstone in NYC, it was a really dramatic room with a hand drawn wallpaper by a group of art students and beautiful reclaimed furniture. It felt like a true one-off.

How long does the process of cornicing a room take? Does just one person do the entire process?

With a standard cornice it normally takes one person around one day but with our cornices it usually takes two people two days to do the same room. There is a lot more finishing involved in our process.

You work with both residential and retail spaces, do you find each client has a very different vision when creating interesting plaster work?

Most people have a very strong source image or point of inspiration. Our clients then ask us for help to guide them to achieve exactly what they are thinking. We spend time getting to know the project and client and try and incorporate some special element unique to them. This allows them to enjoy our work every day, each time they see the plasterwork. It is the small details that make things special.

Your work isn’t restricted to the classical style, you also create brilliant contemporary pieces of art. Do you have a favoured style?

When I was younger my favourite sculptor was Brancusi, I then found Donald Judd very inspiring. Now I am a big fan of Gerhardt Richter; all of them are minimalist in their own way and this has certainly translated into my work.

What does the future hold for Solomon & Wu?

We have recently started working on new products, including cast glass and moulded wall panels in really beautiful finishes. The thing we have realised as a business is that we love to see if there is something new to do in a lot of different fields - plasterwork has a long way to go!

Photography (c) Solomon and Wu, Nick Rochowski
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