Terrazzo, the practice of pouring small, colorful particles in a binding (typically cement) mixture, was initially devised by Venetian stonemasons as an economical way to reuse discarded marble and glass chips, which would otherwise find their demise in the trash heap. The practice results in final forms which are equal parts kaleidoscope, mosaic, and nougat candy--but all visual delight.
Although Ian & Erin Besler of Besler & Sons have revived this ages-old art form in a decidedly-modern way, using computers to model and conceptualize their initial designs, they have not divorced the process from its labor-intensive roots. After pouring, each piece takes many hours of manual grinding, polishing, and smoothing to attain its smooth final form.
We dropped in to the Besler & Sons studio to see some of this labor first hand, and to get to know the pair behind the pieces. Read on to learn more about their process, and if you know of any esoteric YouTube videos or have a hankering for a shed built—any kind of shed—please drop them a line.
Ian & Erin will be joining us for our party at Consort LA on Wednesday, March 29th. To come say hi in person, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
C: How did you get started in art?
Ian and Erin Besler: We incorporated our studio, Besler & Sons, LLC, in 2014. We had collaborated before that, but only informally.
C: Why did you choose your medium?
I & E: Right now we’ve been doing some work with terrazzo. We had been kind of recurringly obsessed with aggregates and esoteric material fabrication processes for years. Derry and Williams write movingly about concrete finishing methods in A Short History of Technology (Dover Publications, New York: 1960). Of course looking at all of the Memphis Group work. And then especially after seeing the amazing work of Cameron Crone in Los Angeles!
C: What is the most challenging part about working with your medium?
I & E: Terrazzo is an aggregate mix, so while the forms are quite uniform the outcome (in terms of the exposed density of glass, marble, and cement) is random. So every piece is unique. Working with terrazzo is kind of like baking, but with rocks ;)
C: What is your creative process like?
I & E: We try to find good videos on YouTube. Mostly software tutorials and, more generally, any video with fewer than 1,000 plays.
C: How has your style changed over the years?
I & E: We did some installations with vinyl gutters and downspouts about two years ago. We actually produced some plaster downspout candle holders and/or flower vases before we moved on to working with terrazzo door stops and/or bookends.
C: What do you believe is a key element in creating a good composition?
I & E: Visual interest? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
C: Who are some of the people or what are some time periods that influence your work? Are you attempting to recreate the past in your work, energize the future, or both?
I & E: We conflate history with technology, maybe even things that could be called primitive or prehistoric. We also look at a lot of things (including art, architecture and designed objects) that were produced in the 1950s and 60s.
C: What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
I & E: Routine chores. Watching the dishes. Doing the laundry. We try to go out with friends. Ian rides his bike everywhere and walks even more - as both means of transportation and also recreation. Once he walked the entire length of Wilshire Blvd. from downtown to the beach, and took a photo at every intersection. You can probably find them online somewhere…
C: Do you have a memory of the first thing you ever bought or owned that occurred to you as “art”?
I & E: For Ian the answer is Micro Machines. For Erin the answer is a Kermit the Frog Phone. He sat cross-legged and his feet were the phone’s cradle.
C: What projects are you working on right now?
I & E: We are honored to be in the company of a really amazing list of participants for the upcoming Chicago Architecture Biennial! Woo-hoo!
C: What is your dream project?
I & E: A utility shed, pool shed, or garden tool shed. Seriously. If anyone needs a shed, any kind of shed, we would really like to do one! LMK!
C: What memorable responses have you had to your work?
I & E: Oh, someone punched a hole right through some drywall on one of our installations! We were bummed out (and a bit scared) for a day, but then thought it was pretty interesting.
C: What food, drink, song inspires you?
I & E: Ian says anything by Vangelis. Erin has been listening to “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen on repeat for a few weeks.
C: Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.
I & E: John Baldessari, Charles Ray, Anni Albers
C: What is your first memory?
I & E: We both have some hazy, distant memory of being small enough to be washed in sinks. Ian in the kitchen sink, Erin in the bathroom sink. It’s weird to look at a sink and think about being able to fit inside of it.
C: What is the first piece you sold?
I & E: Terrazzo “Prop” Snubnose Wedge Classic White.
C: What can you first remember really wanting?
I & E: The Legend of Zelda for NES.
C: When was your first kiss?
I & E: Mid-June, 2005. Dempster Street near the Purple Line “El” station in Evanston, IL. [Ed. note: Awwww]
C: What was your first car?
I & E: 1986 Volvo DL Silver with Navy Blue cloth interior for Erin. 1991 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera White with Blue velour interior for Ian (driven 2002-3).
C: What was your last phone call?
I & E: Telemarketers. Always the telemarketers!
C: What was your last meal?
I & E: Our friend Maya’s recipe for Pasta Salad, it’s farfalle with tomato, sun roasted red peppers, mozzarella (cubed), feta, basil, arugula, some herb that I’m forgetting the name of, and lots of olive oil. Add salt to taste.
C: When was the last time you were drunk?
I & E: Yesterday at a friend’s birthday. Totally coincidental.
C: What was the last emoji you used?
I & E: The butterfly because Ian’s mom sent him an awesome picture of a butterfly today! So he responded with some emoji butterflies!
C: When was your last vacation?
I & E: We were thrilled to be invited to run a workshop at the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building at University of Technology Sydney this past December. We had the chance to see a bit of Sydney throughout the workshop. It was interestingly seamless. It shares a lot of really interesting qualities with Los Angeles.