Designer-maker Robin Grasby, who originally trained as a joiner and cabinetmaker, won a Wallpaper* Design Award in 2011 and has been on our radar ever since. Following the launch of his own surface company Altrock last year, we knew we had to get him on board for this year’s Handmade.

Altrock sees Grasby give new life to discarded materials, creating work surfaces and tables from pieces of natural stone set within a resin mix made up of recycled marble chips, recycled marble powder and colour pigments. Having mostly worked on bespoke interiors, he had the urge to take the process in a different direction. Handmade provided the perfect opportunity: ‘The call from Wallpaper* came at just the right time, as I had been working on some new construction techniques using Altrock that meant moving into three-dimensional pieces,’ Grasby says. ‘It seemed like a great platform for showing what can be achieved with these new methods.’

Despite initially being wary of the exhibition’s love theme, he soon got his teeth into crafting ideas that related to romance in a more abstract sense, and more specifically its symbolic and historical links to stone.

Aphrodite collection Wallpaper* handmade
‘Aphrodite’ collection on view at the Wallpaper* Handmade X exhibition in Milan. Photography: Leon Chew

‘I was drawn into the mythology of Ancient Greece and Rome, as marble had such cultural importance to the people of the Mediterranean area,’ he says. Ever the self-starter, Grasby ended up finding his own ideal partner in the form of Turkish stone company Temmer, having been intrigued by its pink-toned marble named Afrodit, after the goddess of love and beauty.

‘It turned out that Afrodit came from a corner of a grey and white marble quarry that had been infiltrated by an unusual mineral deposit,’ he says. ‘Over the millions of years of heat and pressure, this deposit has manifested as streaks of stunning bright pinks throughout the grey rock.’

‘It is really striking,’ adds Temmer president Rüstem Çentinkaya. ‘Even though we have been in this industry for years, we are still amazed at what nature creates.’

Wallpaper* stepped in to do the matchmaking, and the team at Temmer were as keen on Grasby as he was on them. Before long, Temmer had sent a crateful of its Afrodit marble offcuts to Grasby, who set about devising a palette that would complement their rosy hue.

Temmer water-cooled machinery
Water-cooled machinery slices a marble block into smaller tiles. Photography: Marco Arguello

Form-wise, he kept things simple – he would make a set of side tables inspired by the fluted stone columns of classical architecture. ‘The pieces almost designed themselves,’ he says. ‘The basic elemental forms seemed to answer the brief so satisfyingly and succinctly.’ Grasby broke the marble offcuts into usable chunks and arranged them into the moulds on a so-called ‘casting table’. ‘The table is intrinsic to the process of making Altrock. It is specially designed to grip the stones in place, while allowing for the finished Altrock slabs to come cleanly away, with very little finishing required,’ he explains.

A resin mix was poured over the stones and left to cure for up to two days. Afterwards, the resulting slabs were flipped over before undergoing a couple of rounds of sanding and sealing. Lastly, the slabs were cut and built up into their three-dimensional forms. Marble pieces within the Altrock appear to wrap around the joints thanks to an angling technique.

As for the final result? Both collaborators were delighted with the Altrock side tables. ‘We are surrounded by beautiful stone every day, so in a way, we become desensitised,’ says Çentinkaya. ‘But Robin’s way of using the marble pieces got our senses going again.’ §

As originally featured in the August 2019 issue of Wallpaper* (W*245)