Pierre Vanherck’s career is punctuated with encounters, surprises, and revelations that he can listen to, and above all with audacity, know-how, and tenacity.
The first time Pierre Vanherck put his hands on a wood lathe, he was surprised to make the good gestures of a profession that no one has taught him. Soon, he realized his first cane. An expert told him that is was de bonne facture (polished work). It is a revelation for him. In the stock acquired at the same time as his machines, a piece of wood draws his attention – a small voice tells him not to cut it up to make pens. Having taken information, he learns that it is a precious wood from the 19th century destined for prestigious canes. This is the first challenge that he is pleased to take up: to warp this piece of wood that no one dared to touch for more than 150 years.
He does not stop there, the reverse is the case. Before leaving his job for his wood passion and the freedom to create, Pierre Vanherck was an electromechanical engineer in a research center. He developed software programs to measure the expansion coefficient of building materials.
What makes him vibrate is the magic that happens when the piece of wood is on the lathe and offers its color when it reveals itself. In a few seconds, a piece of wood destined to be burnt can take a whole new turn to become a work of art. If Pierre Vanherck “dreams” his creations, he realizes them almost at the moment and each part amazes him as it is born under his fingers, even before he has finished imagining them. Creation takes over thought. The story will be written afterwards.
What motivates him, beyond this pleasure, is to go beyond the limits and realize what seems impossible to create what never happened before: harmoniously and aesthetically assemble materials that by the laws of physics cannot be. After months of research, locked in his workshop to test metal combinations and wood resistance, Pierre Vanherck invented the formula – of which he keeps the secret – to cast metal in the piece of wood while preserving it.
This unique feat is his great renown today. He added another: to set precious stones and diamonds in handles, trumpets and shafts of canes. He considers himself “lucky” to be able to combine wood and precious stones from all over the world from his workshop in the village of Lillois (Belgium). Nothing stops him. He reinvents the system-canes, integrates an authentication chip, …
In the meantime, recognitions arrive. One of them still surprises him: in 2009, he realized the cane for Pope Benedict XVI.
Elegance, aesthetics, secret,s and his know-how allow him to receive prizes that motivate him to go further. Today, “Mysteries of creation” is an additional step in his journey. It puts his canes in their rightful place: exposed in a frame, illuminated and set in motion, they exist only for the pleasure of being admired and making dream.
Hello Pierre! You are an artist, engineer, and creator. Tell us a few words about yourself. What does a typical day look like?
Pierre: That is right. I left my former job to focus on the creation of prestigious canes.
A typical day starts with reading many emails and answer to several requests. Then I start working on the current orders. When time permits, I like dreaming of new creations or look for new materials.
Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your path as an artist?
Pierre: In 2015, one of my works was auctioned in New York. It was such a success that I decided to create more and more artistic and technically challenging canes.
The idea for your “Mysteries of Creation” emerged during the pandemic. Tell me more about that.
Pierre: After the auction in New York, many curators advised me to make more artistic canes but I did not really dedicate time to it. I had some ideas but did not realize them.
With the pandemic, exhibitions were canceled and we were all stuck at home. I took this opportunity to create « Mysteries of Creation ». Since I have been creating prestigious canes, people always said to me « these are real pieces of art ! ». I am happy I have finally put them in their rightful place: exposed in a frame, illuminated and set in motion, they exist only for the pleasure of being admired and making dreams.
As each cane can be removed from its frame and held and used, their owner will love holding it and bring his piece of art everywhere together with him.
Is there a message you are trying to send with your art, or is it something else?
Pierre: What I would like to express is that everything can be seen differently than it would initially seem. With « Mysteries of Creation », art comes out of its frame. I invite each person to take a different look at what is obvious at first sight: usually the final point of the work, the frame becomes the starting point. The cane, until then a prestigious ornamental item, becomes the medium to convey a larger message, revealed or hidden according to the spectator’s goodwill. He or she becomes a creator of what he or she understands. Usually, the precious stones and wood that would be locked behind a window express themselves under the spectator’s delighted eyes.
Mysteries of Creation is composed of 3 masterpieces. Each of them is unique and expresses a vision of the universe, that each spectator is free to understand his or her own way.
Which artist of the past would you most like to meet, and why?
Pierre: Salvador Dali because he is the undisputed master of Surrealism. I particularly like his sculptures. He had his own way to reveal his personal imaginary world. And I must say, he elegantly carried his cane.
Share some interesting facts about your art with us.
Pierre: I think the most specific characteristic of my art is that I love going beyond the limits of physics. As a former electromechanical engineer in a research center, I used to develop software programs to measure the expansion coefficient of building materials.
When I started to make canes, I wanted to do more than make canes. I wanted to invent something new; something that has never been done before. After months of research, locked in my workshop to test metal combinations and wood resistance, I invented the formula – which I keep secret – to cast metal in the piece of wood while preserving it.
Therefore, I realized what seems impossible: harmoniously and aesthetically assemble materials that would normally catch fire; metal, precious stones, and wood.
I am very proud to have won several prizes; the most impressive rewarding is that I created a cane for Pope Benedict XVI in 2009. It remains an unforgettable event in an artist’s life.
Your work is very unique. How do you find inspiration?
Pierre: Nature provides us with all kinds of materials and is a source of inspiration for me. I simply need to look at a piece of exceptional wood or nutshell, precious stones of different colors and suddenly I imagine how they would fit in an exceptional cane.
Are there any upcoming shows or workshops we should know about?
Pierre: Yes and it is a premiere: I will exhibit « Mysteries of Creation » for the first time in Brussels at the ART3F international contemporary art fair at the end of November 2021.
Do you see your art as serving a purpose beyond art?
Pierre: Yes. My canes are pieces of art but in the first place, they are canes, an elegant facture from the Maison Pierre Vanherck.
What are you currently working on, and what is next for you?
Pierre: I am currently working on a collection of canes entitled « L’empreinte du temps » (The Mark of Time): these are contemporary canes with 100-year old pocket watches, mostly from famous Swiss watchmakers. I am currently finalizing « Plénitude », a collection of canes made of extremely rare and therefore excessively precious wood pieces.