This year London has found their Christmas elf in the form of set designer, illustrator and prop-master guru, Gary Card. Fast becoming a modern day Saint Nick, his past credits including collaborative festive projects with Levi's and Loewe, but this year Card has branched out, constructing his futuristic vision of the evergreen fir pine. He has designed a 14.5 foot electric Christmas tree inspired by the mechanics of the Vauxhall Ampera, which will light up the Regent's Canal from London’s Kings Cross filling station until January 6th. It's an impressive achievement from a designer who confessed to no prior knowledge of cars before the project. “Engines don't look like how I imagined they would,” admits Card. “I was expecting something oily, black and made of steel. Actually they are plastic, almost sci-fi in their design.”
A German custom popularised in Victorian times, the Christmas tree originally represented life and prosperity. Card’s electrical components stack up to form the traditional silhouette of the yuletide fir tree, yet contain them within a robotic, chrome shell. “It is both comfortingly familiar and startlingly alien,” Card explains, a comment which for many, represents Christmas itself. Following the lighting of the sculpture last night, AnOther spoke to Card about his novel take on the festive tree.
"Card’s electrical components stack up to form the traditional silhouette of the yuletide fir tree, yet contain them within a robotic, chrome shell."
What challenges did you have to overcome while designing and constructing the tree?
Some of the bigger challenges were trying to work out how the lights and moving parts would work, this project really took me out of my comfort zone in a lot of respects. I was working with ideas and techniques that I'd never tried before. It was all the more satisfying to build because of that.
How did you approach the location, Kings Cross?
One of the unexpected element of this project became its location. Kings Cross is a very industrial place to work at present. It is currently in the process of heavy development, and the raw energy of the area and its industrial noises were perfectly in tune with the feelings I wanted evoke when creating our tree. It is in construction, new and exciting.
Every family has their own unique tree and approach to decorating. What memories do you have of Christmas trees?
Decorating the tree was always the most important part of getting the house ready for Christmas, My mum took tree dressing very seriously and planned it with military precision, buying new exotic tree decorations all year round whenever she had the opportunity. It was gigantic, my mother and I would not rest until every conceivable part of the tree was covered. We even kept it in the conservatory so it was kept out of reach of the clumsy fingers of the family, behind glass, like some untouchable work of art, my nephews are still not allowed anywhere near it. My mother is a maximalist, i think that's where i get it from.
Gary Card’s Electric Christmas Tree is at the King’s Cross Filling Station each evening from 29 November – 6 January 2013.
Text by Mhairi Graham