Inspired by da Vinci
An artisan draws on 40 years of know-how to create his best work
Text by J.H. White
Photography by Jordan N. Dery
A mountaineer and an artisan appear to be from different worlds, but artisan Maurice Dery says his work can be “like climbing Everest.” He’s the lead designer and co-founder of Karice, a custom lighting and metal manufacturer outside Vancouver, and he’s recently pushed himself to the limit of his abilities with the Da Vinci Collection, inspired by the ingenuity and mastery of Leonardo da Vinci.
“Somebody in art or in design is constantly challenging themselves to build better, to finish better, to design better,” Dery says. A mountaineer wields an ice axe and rope; a metalworker maneuvers high-powered machines, such as a high-pressure water jet that moves faster than the speed of sound to cut steel. The tools and environment are different, but the heart and drive are the same.
Dery says that for high-end craftsmen, the ones who have spent their lives honing their craft, there’s no way to make it cheaper or cut corners — just like there’s no shortcut up a mountain.
Last year, Dery started on the most epic endeavour of his career after being asked to craft for Taste of Life’s Luxury Home & Design Show a custom lighting fixture unlike anything on the market. His creative gears turned, and at the show’s opening in Vancouver last June, he introduced the four-piece Da Vinci Collection.
The set includes the Leonardo 1482 Chandelier, the Vitruvian Table Lamp, the Infinity 1519 Table Lamp, and the Infinity 1519 Pendant. Each pays tribute to da Vinci in some way. Da Vinci started inventing in 1482, he died in 1519, and the Vitruvian Man is one of his most famous sketches.
The collection has become Dery’s Mona Lisa of sorts. It represents a lifetime of know-how and problem solving.
He combined modern materials with ones that da Vinci might have had in his workshop centuries ago. The materials include rudimentary cogs, magnifying glasses, LED lights reflecting off mirrors, and steel with a patina that gives it an aged look.
The collection has grabbed the interest of both homeowners and professionals. One associate in the industry recently told
Dery, “I have been doing this for 20 years, but I’ve never seen anything like this.”
When Dery learned that the Luxury Home & Design Show’s theme was the Italian Renaissance, one man instantly popped into mind — “the ultimate Renaissance man” — Leonardo da Vinci.
“He was beyond genius,” says Dery. Da Vinci worked with lighting too, experimenting with candles by projecting their light through magnifying glasses to intensify it. Dery says it’s similar to movie theatres projecting light through a lens to create a stronger beam. To continue painting at night, Dery believes da Vinci would magnify the candlelight, then reflect it onto his canvas with mirrors.
In the collection’s pieces, LED light shines through magnifying glasses, then reflects off rotating mirrors that can change the light’s direction onto a wall, ceiling, or floor. “The methodology is identical. The technology? 500 years apart,” Dery says.
“Everything [in the market today] is about simplicity and slim lines, where we were going completely 180 degrees,” he says. “We were making this thing as difficult and as challenging as possible.”
Dery is able to imagine a piece in its entirety before he sketches it out on paper; after sketching it, he uses the AutoCAD design program, but AutoCAD didn’t have programming with ancient parts in it, such as cogs.
We’re trying to do something that was in the 1500s, and our computers say, ‘No, we don’t do that,’” he says. So Dery designed wheels with pegs in his program to mimic the cogs, and tried to work out the clearances and spacings as much as he could digitally.
He had problems getting the cogs to work together properly. Sometimes they would hit each other without interlocking. Sometimes they would loosely rattle around. He had to play around with different numbers of teeth on the cogs, but that would then affect other aspects of the structure.
“It just creates this whole cyclone of things like, I changed this, now I have to change that, now I have to change this, now I have to change that,” he says. But the grit of the mountaineer inside Dery wouldn’t let him give up.
“I can do this. I know I can do this,” he told himself. “You’re climbing that mountain.”
Dery hacked his way through the challenges, upwards to his creative summit. “I developed [the chandelier, the first of the four pieces in the collection] in three or four months, but it took 40 years of experience to build it,” he says.
Now, when he pulls the chain that floats down from the chandelier, eight cogs seamlessly move the gears, tilting and rotating the mirrors, which shift the angle and direction of light.
“It’s like I just conquered Everest. It’s exactly what I wanted it to look like,” he says. He’s thinking of doing another collection inspired by another great inventor.