Specializing in post-modern and modern furniture design, Clark Ellefson, principal designer and owner of Lewis+Clark, constructs furniture through a culmination of process with exploration into ideas, color, texture, and materials. As a result of this combination, one can find a finished piece of furniture by Ellefson that is functional, modern, artistic, and completely individual. For Ellefson, the common perceptions of all to familiar furniture objects are stretched and turned into extraordinary and avant-garde art objects. Whether living with or working with Ellefson's furniture, the viewer is invited to interact with and extract from their involvement with such functional and artistic objects, an experience that alters one's perception of object, space and reality.
In 1974, Ellefson received his Bachelor's of Fine Arts degree from the University of South Carolina with emphasis in Sculpture, Ceramics and Film. Through his study of several diverse mediums, Ellefson's fascination and skill with the functional as well as the artistic eventually converged into one-of-a-kind furniture design. In the late 1970's, Ellefson teamed up with furniture maker Jim Lewis. From the partnership emerged growing experimentation and creation of avant garde furniture. In 1980, the two established a furniture design studio, Lewis+Clark, and continued pursuits into modern furniture design while establishing commissions, clientele, and artistic identity within their art and the community. After several years of success, Ellefson became sole owner and designer of Lewis+Clark as Jim Lewis' decision to pursue individual interests carried him to the West Coast.
As for design aesthetics, Ellefson's earlier works of furniture were strongly influenced by the Memphis School of Design, a furniture movement that flourished during the early to mid 1980's. Ellefson's use of vibrant colors with contrasting patterns and shapes were similar characteristics found in the Memphis School designers. Later works created during the 1990's progressed into individualistic ideas that incorporated the use of hard lines and edges to convey strong symbolism.
Ellefson's current design principles are largely driven by conceptual ideas and current advances in materials which inspire him to maintain a contemporary style. Overall, Ellefson "loves to break the rules." Through the physical process of material manipulation, Ellefson constantly explores and solidifies his ideas while keeping a range of expressive possibilities in perspective. Working partly from intuition, he allows materials to speak while sorting through practical design decisions, often combining divergent styles to create new associations. "As ideas come, I throw out the bad ones, and make room for the good ones," says Ellefson.
A design element important to Ellefson, is the consideration of surface treatment to convey cultural and/or symbolic references. Iconoclastic pieces with strong mythological or cultural relevance are some of Ellefson's more serious works, while, on the other hand, his more whimsical furniture charms the viewer with humour and wit. Choice materials for Ellefson range from woods such as cherry, maple, and poplar combined with a variety of veneers, plastics, laminates, metals, stone and handmade papers. Above all, there remains a strong and focused desire to continue exploring, especially into uncharted territories of material mixing that inspires and drives Ellefson to create a style of furniture unique only to him.
The work of Lewis+Clark has earned showings in a number of exhibitions within museums that include the Miami Museum of Modern Art, Salon de Mobile, The Victoria and Albert Museum, the Chicago Art Institute, and the Columbia (SC) Museum of Art, with works in the permanent collections of the Chicago Art Institute, the Columbia (SC) Museum of Art, and the South Carolina State Museum. Throughout the years, the works of Lewis+Clark have appeared in publications such as Architectural Record, Casa Vogue, Interiors, Fine Woodworking, Design, and Pronto (a Japanese design publication). Along with current showings and commissions, Ellefson remains an active member of the Columbia (SC) Design League, the Furniture Society, and the Columbia (SC) Development Corporation.
Ellefson has used his experience with furniture design and construction to inform the unique, elegant, eccentric, modern, high craft of the Lewis+Clark lamps.
Ellefson was featured on the Artists 2010 episode of South Carolina ETV's The Big Picture which aired August 19, 2010. You can view the broadcast online at the SCETV web site.
Ellefson's design process was featured in Jasper Magazine, which covers the greater Columbia arts community, in an 2012 article by Kristine Hartvigsen.
Ellefson is featured in the April 8, 2015 Free Times in The Artist Next Door, Open Studios Fills Important Niche in Columbia’s Evolving Art Scene article.
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