This Collection of Hand-Carved, Noguchi-Inspired Bowls Imbues Spaces With an Earthy Essence
In 2020, the Noguchi Museum opened “The Sculptor and the Ashtray”—an intimate, one-room exhibition chronicling the artist’s pursuit to create the perfect ashtray. The negative space employed in Isamu Noguchi’s designs, as well as the show’s culminating statement about design and its power to shape the modern world, inspired designers Anna Aristova and Roza Gazarian, founders of New York–based studio A Space, to make a collection of hand-carved bowls, produced from special material—Lebanese cedar—that has a signature balsamic scent.
The result is a collection of nine sculptural wooden bowls carved from Lebanese cedar. Imagine a beautiful, weighty design object with a camphoraceous smell that’s prickly, cooling, and slightly, somehow pleasingly mothball-like. Beyond its serenely spicy fragrance, the ancient wood has been said to have protective qualities: In the Quran, a massive Lebanese cedar tree guards the entrance to seventh heaven, and in the Middle Ages, the purifying essential oil from the tree was used to cast out unwelcome demons. The essence of the fragrant wood—which lies somewhere between the mintiness of pine and the muskiness of patchouli—has also been used, across the decades, as a mainstay ingredient in the perfume industry.
To ensure that no harm was done to the dwindling population of cedars—Lebanese cedar trees have been nearly wiped clean due to deforestation and global warming—the material used to construct each vessel was excavated from leftover masses of wood found at a construction site. The bowls are treated using the shou sugi ban technique, the Japanese process of charring cedar with an open flame, then coated in a layer of organic lacquer, protecting the wood from wear and tear and allowing the deep, winding scent that imbues the molecules of the wood’s resin to come through.
Continuing on in Noguchi’s belief that sculpture can be made everywhere and out of everything, each of these broody, sculptural bowls promises to grace any room that houses it with a comforting, earthy aroma for years to come.