Engraving Property

Unfolding from the chapter 1650°C on my research on warmth, “Engraving property” is a pre-research on iron-casted firebacks. It was shaped for the occasion of a design residency open call hosted in a fireplaces equipped building. 

Around 1650°c in my research on rising warmth (p. 107), I came to be interested in the firebacks artefacts and their production processes. Through this topic, I am interested in the fusion point between vernacular, craftsmanship, industry, reproductible. I also have strong interests in the symbolic surrounding the fireplace and in the heraldry of firebacks for what they inform us about social memberships, power relations. This goes hand in hand with my current interests in transmission, fluidity, common, hospitality, empathy, care.

I would like to study the status of firebacks becoming obsolete -ghost- objects. I would like to research their iconographic nature as well as their geographical and historical anchors. I want to explore the archeology of metallurgy technics and iconography, following the development of industrial growth.

           Firebacks are iron casted plates covering the interior of fireplaces. They raised from the practical urge to protect the walls from harsh heat emanated from the fire once the fireplaces were moved from the centre of the room to wall-sided frontal apparatus. The physical attributes of iron also offer the consequential benefits or radiating the accumulated heat back into the room.

Those fireplace back-scenes became privileged places to depict strong iconic messages: allegiance coat of arms of the house were engraved on them. Placed in the symbolic center of the building, they were brought to life by the moving lightning of the flames.

In France, right after the Revolution, a decree was signed. Every ‘contre-coeurs’ of every house of the country mentioning the royal “fleur de Lys” had to be turned: suddenly planking against the walls their suddenly problematic iconographic content. This way, the power of those images can already be approached through this historical anecdote, through this heavy physical gesture.

Everywhere else, many plaques have disappeared because they represented valuable resources once melted back to their “original state”. And nowadays, some of those buildings hosting the firebacks became museums, switching their hot, functional, domestic fireplaces into cold and empty frames.