A Designer Who Finds Beauty in Decay

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ONE OF THE designer Marcin Rusak’s lasting memories from his childhood in Poland was spending time in his family’s greenhouses. His maternal great-grandfather and grandfather were flower growers in Warsaw and, although their business shuttered just before he was born, he often played in those abandoned, overgrown glass structures. “I can still feel the warmth and smell the weeds and bacteria growing there,” he says.

It’s fitting, then, that the 34-year-old has built an international following for furnishings and objects that incorporate flowers and plants in unexpected ways. About a decade ago, while in his master’s program at London’s Royal College of Art, he began using discarded blooms from a flower market to create painterly textiles, pressing the petals’ natural pigments onto silk — a metaphorical way of extending their life, at least until the colors inevitably faded. “So much effort goes into the flower industry, which is massive and confusing,” he says. “We grow these living things that we keep for two weeks, and then they end up in a bin.”

Since establishing his studio in London five years ago, he has expanded upon these ideas, most notably with the flower-in-resin furniture for which he’s now best known. His Flora tables, cabinets and wall hangings, typically crafted with minimalist metal bases and frames, feature surfaces with dried blooms, leaves and stems, all encased in semitranslucent resin and composed by “intuition,” says Rusak, in a style that calls to mind Dutch still lifes or East Asian lacquer. Then there are his furniture-like Perma sculptures, created with thin, cross-sectioned slabs of flower-infused resin that resemble vividly flecked stone. Rusak cuts the segments, in black or milky white resin, into interlocking parts using a CNC milling machine, which leaves bits of raw plant exposed. Over time, some will decompose, crumble and fall away, leaving small voids. “In a sense, the piece is living,” he says. “And I want to keep it this way.”

IN PART BECAUSE of Brexit, Rusak decided a couple of years ago to move his studio to Warsaw, where he rents three adjacent spaces, totaling 5,400 square feet, inside an industrial park 10 minutes from the city center. There, amid prototypes in various stages of development, bins and racks are filled with dried or drying flowers, discarded blooms and plant material that Rusak sources from various growers and sellers, including his mother and sister, who own a floral design business and shop in town called Mák 1904. As his output continues to expand — between here and a production facility in Rotterdam, the atelier now makes upward of 100 pieces a year — he has hired 15 or so employees, while also collaborating with artisans throughout Europe, including metal workers and glassmakers, who fabricate components for commissions from private clients, interior designers and galleries such as Sarah Myerscough Gallery in London, Carwan Gallery in…

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