The name Assegai originates from a traditional spear once used in Southern Africa and is the perfect eponym for this slender javelin shaped American red oak pendant created by Melbourne based designer and architect, Adam Markowitz.
In his furniture designs, Adam Markowitz has passionately pursued his fascination with sculptural form. With his first foray into lighting he saw the opportunity to experiment with sculptural design when an object is removed from the ground and any structural requirements. The slim form of the Assegai pendant was initially inspired by early musket designs, created from organically sculptured wooden elements cradled in a long steel barrel. “I had also been looking at the work of Italian midcentury designers such as Gino Sarfatti.” Says Markowitz. “The aim was to achieve something that at first glance was minimal and would not dominate a space, but when viewed more closely had a level of detail and handmade quality that offers value and warmth above a typical extruded metal linear pendant”.
The slim profile of Assegai brings with it challenges. The delicate section cradling the central brass tube can be as thin as 4mm and, therefore, if there are any defects in the timber the piece must be discarded. Markowitz says the biggest challenge is machining the central groove for the brass tube “It has to be machined to an incredibly high level of accuracy, if it is too tight then the brass tube won’t fit the pendant, if it’s too loose then the brass will not be cradled tightly. The difference between those two are fractions of a millimeter. A little more finger pressure at the machine is all it takes”. Given the complexity of the 3D curvature, the final piece must be finished by hand.
So how does this need for precision influence material choice? Originally created from Australian jarrah or American walnut, Markowitz’ latest iteration of Assegai is made from American red oak. “I started with jarrah as my intention was to produce primarily from recycled timber. What became clear though is that with the delicate nature of the components I needed to be selective and with recycled you don’t get to pick and choose. Jarrah is very hard but can be unforgiving to work with when hand shaping. American walnut has a warm tone that sits particularly well with the brass and is also incredibly easy to work. I’ve also started making ebonized black pendants which look great when paired with the brass. I started with Tasmanian oak but found the results from the ebonizing were inconsistent and it can be a little unreliable in terms of strength and quality – I think that is might be because it is an umbrella term that covers a number of different species, so you don’t know exactly what you are going to get. I had used some American red oak before and was playing around with how its porous nature accepts stain in interesting ways and discovered it ebonizes well. It’s suitable for the thinnest sections, glues easily and responds well to sharp hand tools. It’s also easy to source thicker sections in Australia, whereas this is a bit more difficult with walnut – and more costly!”.
The Assegai pendant pushes the possibilities of what can be created from timber. Having taken orders for more black pendants, Markowitz will be creating them from American red oak “It’s just a more reliable option for this application” he says.
With this design, Adam Markowitz demonstrates that it is often the most simple appearances which are the most complicated to achieve. A quality material in the hands of a skilled perfectionist can have truly stunning results.