This Artist Passed the Time in 2020 by Covering a Chair in 30,000 Mirrored Tiles
One tiny square by one tiny square—and the days flew by.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 6:16 AM
“You don’t have to be sitting in it to enjoy it,” says Rachel Shillander, the founder of art and architecture studio Lland, of her Daylight Disco chair. The piece of furniture is covered in mirrored tiles—30,000 to be exact. Each tiny square of glass reflects the sun. In other terms, that’s 30,000 itty-bitty stars floating about the room at any given time. “The chair sees 82 years in a day,” she explains.
Most of Shillander’s work revolves around the concept of time. Not necessarily how long it takes to create something, but the passing of it—something she learned a lot about in 2020. After her studio space flooded in February and COVID hit in March, the artist was forced to take all of her work back to her San Fernando Valley home, including three shell-like chairs she crafted by layering mesh and cement over an inflatable cushion. “I can’t wait for 2021,” she thought as she stared at the rigid, unadorned structures sitting in her backyard. “Then I just had this idea to turn them into disco balls,” she recalls. “I needed something to look forward to.”
The desired effect was party vibes, not necessarily a comfortable place to lounge. But what Shillander really got out of it was a way to stay busy and motivated, not to mention plenty of time for self-reflection.
Get Your Groove On
Having just dropped out of escrow on a house (the place she was looking at needed too much work), Shillander could afford all the materials she would need for the project. The tiny tiles took up a huge part of her budget. She would also require an adhesive mortar (water mixed with a white cement-and-sand polymer), which she would stir until it became a toothpaste-like consistency, and a tent to provide space while she worked, among other tools.
Beauty Is Pain
The experience was a cathartic and slightly painful one. “It was very hard on my fingers and my back,” she recalls. As she hand-laid each ⅜-by-⅜-inch piece to the concrete form, she’d have to contort her body to get to all the spots. (The heavy chair doesn’t move to accommodate your needs; you work around it.)
Because it’s impossible to cover an amorphous object in a rectangular grid, Shillander cut some of the tiles, revealing their sharp edges. “It’s so interesting what it does to your concept of pain,” she says. “I would sit down at 8 a.m. on a Saturday and not even look up until 4 p.m., working all day and not noticing that my hands were all torn up.”
Catch You on the Flip Side
Shillander dedicated nights and weekends to the project (the artist works full-time as an in-house architect for a construction company during the week); she finished it in roughly four months and, soon after, found a permanent home for the piece with a new owner. “The value for me is learning from the object,” she says. “Once it’s done, it’s about moving on to make the next thing.”
Like standard mirrors, the furniture works its magic in a room. It can make a space appear larger than it really is, and it shines light in unexpected ways, leaving an almost polka-dotted pattern on the walls, floor, and ceiling. “When I had it sitting outside by the window, it would do crazy things inside the house,” says Shillander. “It’s like this other marker of time—a little beacon.”
Our Winter Renovation issue is here! Subscribe now to step inside Leanne Ford’s latest project—her own historic Pennsylvania home. Plus discover our new rules of reno.