Creative fireworks occur when two brilliant talents come together with complementary skill sets. George Sellers and Bradley Clifford partnered in 2014 to create Areté Collection, a line of furnishings, lighting and accessories inspired by nature and interpreted in a unique modern fashion. I visited their Dallas studio last month to get a behind the scenes glimpse of the masters at work.
Areté is a Greek word meaning virtue or moral excellence, but it is also something more than cannot be captured in words. It transcends the mundane and possesses a sense of the Divine. Each piece in the Areté Collection embodies this ideal. The intricate detail and whimsy of each motif is interpreted in either plaster or bronze and elevated to the sublime.
George Sellers is the quintessential Renaissance man…sculptor, artist, illustrator, and pianist. He is a classically trained sculptor who studied at Studio Arts Centers International in Florence after college. His work is influenced by 15th century Italian architecture and the work of Italian sculptor Donatello, who mastered capturing emotion in a sculpted form. In a recent Paper City article, Sellers elaborates on his work, “My eye is drawn to Renaissance decoration and Rococo, and I do love clean and modern, too. I exist between those; it’s all in the middle. I also love silly carving, like acanthus leaves, and am always drawn to figurative embellishment, the crazier the better.” He is celebrated for “infusing high profile spaces (Van Cleef & Arpels, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys New York) with imagination, wit and a touch of the fantastical.”
With more than 20 years of experience as a retailer, designer, shop owner, tastemaker, and marketing guru, Bradley Clifford is a perfect complement to George’s artistic talent. They met via Instagram when Bradley had taken an image of an architectural fragment he wanted to be reinterpreted into a lamp base. When he threw the request out into cyberspace, George answered and the two creative minds began to discuss their career paths. A few months later, the Areté Collection was born, already receiving much fanfare from Architectural Digest, Paper City, and Luxe Magazine (just to name a few.)
The compass rose is a key motif in the collection. All items are carved in clay, cast in sustainable resin before being cast in plaster or bronze. Plaster works are then finished in either gilt, silver, black or left in their original white.
Mystical creatures such as elephants, beetles, tortoises, and serpents are reimagined as bookends, mirror motifs, lamps bases and wall sculptures.
This sculptural console adorned Beth Webb’s striking dining room for Atlanta Home & Lifestyle’s Holiday House in December. The gilded interior with white exterior was the perfect marriage of form and function.
Faux bois is the artistic imitation of wood or wood grain used in anything from furnishing to fabric and wall coverings. Originally created during the Renaissance with trompe l’oeil, it was first executed with concrete and metal and used for garden ornament. Areté Collection’s interpretation of faux bois is clean, sleek and contemporary made in plaster. Lamps, side tables and consoles are first constructed in hand forged iron and then wrapped in plaster to achieve the faux bois look.
In Paper City, nephew and chief fabricator Ely Sellers explains his uncle’s creativity, “His ideas fly out of his head so fast, you have to be ready to catch them. I never went to college and was working at a restaurant. He said, ‘Hey, you can live with me and work with me.’ I jumped on it. It’s a slow climb, and I’m still growing. But I’ve always believed in him.” The two collaborate on all projects, including an upcoming furniture collection for Neiman Marcus; a zoo-full of plaster animals, available at Grange Hall in Dallas; and a 4-foot-tall spider for Bergdorf’s Christmas window, the fourth that they’ve done. “It will be covered in one-eighth-inch-long quartz crystals,” says Ely, “so it looks hairy.”