Sculpture Born From Necessity

William Heistand
by William Heistand
For a unique set of walnut stairs, I had mounted cast bronze door handles, horizontally, in place of the traditional wall mounted handrail. The bronze handles are shaped as tree branches, a motif that continues throughout the interior design in the furnishings,hardware and handmade Motawi tiles in this master bedroom and adjoining master bath.
The idea is simple and effective. However, the mounting engineering was not lasting. After several months of use, the heavy bronze began to pull from the wall.
The mounting hardware is designed to be attached directly into the wood of a door, not through a layer of drywall into wood backing. To correct this, I designed a walnut piece to which to secure the bronze handles and then itself to be secured to the wall. The result is a functional work of sculpture that compliments the angled walnut steps and occupies an otherwise plain wall.
The practical application of the idea began with sketches on photographs of the wall with the bronze handles in place. Then, I conformed the design so that the carving would be done on one solid piece of walnut and accommodate the precise placement of the handles. Once the basic form of the branch design was scaled and transferred to the wood stock, I allowed the grain of the walnut to guide the overall branch motif and carving. I delight that within the whole design, there are vignettes of composition to entertain the eye, as illustrated by the detail photographs.
Carved walnut handrail (detail)
Entry to a Craftsman Styled Master Bedroom
Carved walnut and cast bronze handholds
Original bronze handle placement
Handrail branch motif concept sketch
Finished handrail
Carved walnut handrail (detail 2)
Carved walnut handrail (detail 3)
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