When grace, elegance, and purpose unite, it is rare magic. In Elena Colombo’s creations, this trio starts an exquisite fire.
Elena’s love of nature, and particularly the fire element, is deeply rooted. She tells me that her naturalist mother was always collecting nests and rocks and stones. Their suitcases were heavy with nature’s bounty of pebbles when returning from family vacations. A self-proclaimed pyromaniac, Elena credits her father for passing on that gene, a gene that her mother and sister do not share.
Her education is thorough and diverse, and she has earned Bachelors of Arts in both fine arts and art history. Additional studies of architectural design, sculpture, etching, and one year in Rome studying sculpture, painting, and the Italian renaissance are impressive tools for a classically trained sculptor and designer. These multiple talents led her to a varied and successful career in television and print until opening her own company, Colombo Construction Corporation, in 1999, followed by Fire Features in 2002.
At her Greenport beach house after the tragedy of September 11, Elena was wishing for a fire on the beach. Wood fires are not allowed there, and she longed for an approved outdoor fire that she could control. Her creativity filled that need. She made her first hand-made fire feature with concrete and a burner built by her father.
Elena credits the success of her fire bowls to the nation’s need for a place to gather as a community. And what better place than “a fire which is a destination”? She shares that around a fire you put your phone away and talk face to face with others. “People will all come when you have a place to gather, it’s an automatic party.”
Her sculptures are “art that works to honor nature.” The pure vessels contain and enhance fire yet they “don’t compete with the fire.” Elena also finds inspiration in Chinese pottery, Japanese painting, her painting professor George Chaplin, painter Mark Rothko, her mom, and her team of in-house and outside experts and artisans.
This talented team works closely to craft beautiful vessels that evoke nature and function as a convenient modern gas appliance. A 3-dimensional computer model is developed to work out all of the intricate details prior to fabrication. Nic Spitler, head of design, coordinates the parts that make the art work. The burner, the control panel, all the constraints of these fire appliances are orchestrated to provide peak performance, ease of use, convenience, and of utmost importance to everyone, safety. Of course all of this is exquisitely manipulated with minimal visual effect on the vessels. Tim Kohchi, metal smith and master welder, brings the pieces to life.
Elena’s excitement was apparent when I asked what her favorite material is. She loves bronze because it molds to a form that looks exactly like what you’re casting. You can buff the raised parts of a log, for example, and it “shines like pink gold.” Currently she’s working on cast bronze log sets molded from drift wood that she’s collected from all over the world. And you’re among the first to see her new fire screens, above in cast bronze and below in stainless steel.
Elena Colombo understands our inherent desire to extend our living spaces in to the great outdoors and be close to the natural element of fire. Her fire vessels prompt us to do that in the most naturally elegant way.
Share the warmth, build a fire, invite your friends.