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Creative spin Etienne Proust, David Clement

Sydney Morning Herald

Thursday February 24, 2011

Judy Barouch

This talking-point art comes with history attached just don't call its creators sculptors, writes Judy Barouch. French-born friends Etienne Proust, 30, and David Clement, 31, are flying high due to the launch of Propell'art, a unique new business venture. The pair is converting vintage propeller blades from 1950s, '60s and '70s aeroplanes into edgy, sculptural artworks."We source the old propellers from around the world and recondition them in our workshop," Clement says."The process takes us several weeks."Once restored, the blades are coated with a sterling silver, rose gold or mirror-finish aluminium before being mounted onto a solid base: marble, metal or wood.Each of these free-standing artworks comes complete with a provenance certificate describing the heritage of the plane from which the propeller originated - aircraft such as the Piper PA32 Cherokee Six or Beechcraft King Air.Proust and Clement have a nostalgic fascination with bygone-era planes. By giving the cast-aside blades a second life, they see themselves as "paying tribute to aeronautical history".Both have a sentimental bond with aviation. "My great-grandfather was the first ever French pilot for the British Royal Air Force and he was placed into battle in World War I," Clement says.Proust's best friend in Paris is a member of the family that made Farman aeroplanes. "In the 1930s the company was incorporated into Air France," Proust says."I was attracted to the propellers [on the old planes] and often thought that I would like to do something creative with them."The duo's career paths have been varied. Since student days working as a car mechanic in France, Clement has obtained a master's degree in logistics and international marketing from the University of NSW.He works as an international marketing manager and moonlights as a DJ at present.Proust's background is similarly eclectic: a landscaper in France, now working as a barista in Sydney, he says his mother and stepfather collected and restored cars."I learnt to drive at 12 years old and helped fix engines," he says.Working with plane parts could be seen as a consistent progression.The friends don't like their creations to be labelled sculptures - "that would make us sculptors," Clement laughs. Whatever the label, the mounted propellers certainly make for talking-point collectibles.Perfectly suited to a living room, hallway or home office and standing at 1.2 metres to 1.3 metres high, they range from $2000 to about $12,000.Their latest design is a coffee table made from a 1930 cabin door,and consoles, desks and lights are in the pipeline.While neither Proust nor Clement is about to give up his day job, their new project is propelling them up, up and away into an exciting new creative direction.Find Propell'art at Becker Minty Potts Point and Queen Street (beckerminty.com); Gineico, Surry Hills (gineicointeriors.com) or bespoke from the makers, propellart.com.

© 2011 Sydney Morning Herald

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