10 things to see at LDF 2016 #7: Sculpting Scent by Zuza Mengham

London artist Zuza Mengham creates colourful resin sculptures by mixing dyes and powdered metals. For London Design Festival, she has created a striking set of designs referencing the different scents found in Laboratory Perfumes’ range of unisex fragrances

Amber resin sculpture by Zuza Mengham for Laboratory Perfumes. Image: Ilka & Franz
Amber by Zuza Mengham. Image: Ilka & Franz

Zuza Mengham creates colourful resin sculptures from her studio in South London. For London Design Festival, she has teamed up with Laboratory Perfumes to create a sculpture representing each fragrance in its unisex range. Sculptures are inspired by the different notes in each fragrance – orange represents amber and yellow represents citrus notes while lighter, leafy scents are referenced in paler pastels and marbling effects.

“I started off making a mood board of natural imagery – anything that brought the scent’s characteristics to mind either texturally or in its colour and form,” says Mengham. “I smelled them and made the mood boards before I read the descriptions, as I wanted to see what I could decipher from them … and then I made a series of watercolour drawings to plan the pours.”

Mengham studied sculpture at Wimbledon College of Art and spent most of her time welding with steel. After graduating, she started experimenting with different materials and developed an instant fascination with resin. “I realised there was a massive abundance of possibilities with the material and how you could play with it.”

Samphire resin sculpture by Zuza Mengham for Laboratory Perfumes. Image: Ilka & Franz
Samphire by Zuza Mengham. Image: Ilka & Franz

To make the pieces, she pours resin into clear silicone moulds, using a range of dyes and materials to create different colours and textures. “It’s quite important to be able to see what you’re doing,” she says – “but because of the nature of resin, which shrinks as it catalyses, you normally start losing visibility half way through, so you have to remember what was going on inside…. Once it comes out of the mould, you kind of knock it all back and it’s revealed. It’s a bit like shaping and polishing a diamond,” she explains.

Sculptures require some careful planning to get the desired visual effect. “You definitely have to plan it. [With some sculptures], you can end up using seven or eight kg of resin which is quite dear, and it’s really time consuming, so I usually sit in the studio with hundreds of colour palettes from paint shops, matching them all up and playing around with them,” she adds.

Tonka resin sculpture by Zuza Mengham for Laboratory Perfumes. Image: Ilka & Franz
Tonka by Zuza Mengham. Image: Ilka & Franz

Mengham says she has only a small window to adapt the sculpture once the resin is poured – when creating a marbling effect, she will wait until just before the sculpture is about to set before mixing colours.

When making sculptures for Laboratory Perfumes, she used powdered iron, copper, slate and aluminium to represent different scents and top notes, combining materials of varying densities. Heavier materials sink to the bottom, creating solid blocks of colour – one sculpture uses a solid block of brown created using powdered slate to reference Tonka beans.

Mengham is now working on an exhibition of sculptures which opens at the Chopping Block Gallery in Peckham on September 29. Her work has also caught the attention of FKA twigs – she created a sculpture for FKA twigs’ Radient Me2 tour earlier this year, which the musician used on stage.

Tonka resin sculpture by Zuza Mengham for Laboratory Perfumes. Image: Ilka & Franz
Gorse by Zuza Mengham. Image: Ilka & Franz

See Mengham’s sculptures at The Conran Shop, 55 Marylebone High Street W1U 5HS from September 17 – 25. For opening times see conranshop.co.uk

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