The Spark of Creativity
By Richard Wright
Long-time readers of Hearth & Home will recognize the name Elena Colombo, and most likely remember her stunning and unique fire sculptures. They range from relatively simple fire bowls to the 28-ton Corten steel arc spanning a road at the old Bethlehem Steel plant in Pennsylvania.
When we first profiled her in 2008, the name of her company was Colombo Construction Corp. That’s now the parent company of Fire Features, the name under which she creates and sells absolutely gorgeous sculptures that incorporate, or relate to, fire.
After reading this brief article, do yourself a huge favor and go to www.firefeatures.com. There you will see the breadth of Colombo’s work, many of which are one-offs, commissioned by individuals or companies.
The list of major architects, designers, restaurants, wineries and hotels with whom Colombo has worked is too long to include here. Suffice it to say that she has worked with a number of Ritz Carlton hotels, from Texas to Bangalore, and with the Waldorf Astoria, W Hotels, Amangani, Four Seasons, etc. She has also worked with Amazon Headquarters in Seattle and Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco.
If you liked Hearth & Home’s cover image in March of this year, that fireplace design was by Colombo, working with Backen Gillam & Kroeger Architects.
Now we’ll let Elena Colombo describe a few of her creations.
Stainless-Steel Sea Grass on Ice
“This one is now in a pool at a private residence in Henderson, on the outskirts of Las Vegas. I wanted to get a photo of it before I shipped it, so we went to a state park in Pennsylvania for the shoot. A bunch of ice fishermen got a kick out of it.
“It’s of stainless-steel and about eight feet long and over 1,000 pounds. It’s made of solid rod an in. to three-quarters of an in. in size. The piece is freestanding and quite portable.”
Cast Bronze Grapevine Log Set
“These are Chardonnay vines that had run their course – old, old vines. They’re about three in. in diameter and quite beautiful, gnarly with big knobs. We’ve done quite a few of these, as well as some made from driftwood.”
Mild Steel Firebowl
“This was my original prototype back around 2004. I’ve probably done about 300 of them since then. It’s 68 in. in diameter with a manual pilot ignition and lava rocks. I can vary the diameter to accommodate what each client wants. We work with architects and contractors and build products to fit their needs.
“I’ve found a niche, in that there’s not a whole lot of people who work with custom designs.”
“This was one of my earliest efforts. It’s at a great restaurant called Press in Napa Valley. Everybody goes out and has cocktails by the fire prior to dinner. I worked with Howard Backen, the architect. His team is really sharp. It has one of our first electronic ignition systems and has held up beautifully.”
Stainless-Steel Branch Insert
“We were working in a very modern house in California, doing all these outside fixtures and they asked about something for the interior. So I started making rod inserts for the interior. People are tired of the gas log sets on the market, and want something different.”
Cast Bronze Bird’s Nest
“This one (shown) is six feet in diameter. The process is similar to the Lost Wax method; we call it the Lost Wood method. We cover a real branch with a ceramic slurry by dipping it, then letting it dry, dip and dry, dip and dry until a half-in. crust has formed. Then we fire that crust until it turns into a hard, ceramic shell.