Solid Surface Materials Find a 'Heavenly' Application

A liturgical design consultant uses Avonite in church baptismal fonts.

By Lisa Whitcomb

Liturgical design consultant Willy Malarcher worked with The Pinske Edge to create this Avonite baptismal font for Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in Maywood, NJ, Rev. Joseph Pietropinto, pastor. Daniel Barteluce was the architect on the project.

According to Tom Pinske, owner of The Pinske Edge in Plato, MN, "There are more uses for solid surface materials than just countertops. You can do lots of stuff with it. Ten years ago designers and architects thought it was only for countertops. Now they are finding more uses for the material."

Such was the case for liturgical design consultant Willy Malarcher from Englewood, NJ. "I work with worship communities from all denominations who are either remodeling or building new worship facilities," he says. Since he designs liturgical furnishings for these facilities he is often responsible for finding materials and sources, as well as finding companies to fabricate the pieces.

While looking for new material inspirations at an architectural home furnishing show in New York City last year, he saw Avonite solid surface material being used in kitchen applications, as well as for a small fountain. Seeing the fountain, Malarcher was intrigued by the possibilities of using such a material to construct a baptismal font. After inquiring about the fabricating process, he was referred to The Pinske Edge.

Pinske's company collaborated on the baptismal font because it likes the challenge of "doing the hard stuff that no one else wants to take on," says Pinske.

The Pinske Edge and Malarcher have created two such Avonite fonts thus far. The first was created in desert tan for Our Lady Queen of Peace church in Maywood, NJ, and the second was recently fabricated in Dakota rust for Our Lady of Fatima church in Huntington, WV. Both bowls are approximately 36 inches in diameter and about 10 inches deep.

Malarcher says one reason why the Avonite attracted his interest was because of its light weight. He says that many denominations of faith are revising their understanding of the rite of baptism in relation to infants and adults. Hence, there is a need for bigger baptismal fonts to be installed. In such instances, a redesigned raised bowl font stands in relation to a pool area that accepts the circulating water as it flows from the bowl's spillway into the pool for adult baptism.

Another reason why Malarcher says he took a liking to the solid surface material was its cost effectiveness for those remodeling or building. "Using Avonite enabled us to consider placing the font in a space that was liturgically desirable, whereas using a heavy material like granite in the same space would have been architecturally and cost prohibitive," Malarcher says.

Each font was fabricated from two-inch-thick sheets of Avonite. Rings were cut from the sheets, stacked and glued together to form the rough bowl. The bowl was machined on a five-axis CMS CNC router, which shaped the 10-inch bowl and polished the piece. After some light sanding, the outer rectangular pieces were machined and glued together in an octagonal shape, attached to the bowl and then a spillway was cut in, says Pinske.

Malarcher says he likes working with the material because of its look, feel and basic integrity. He is contemplating the possible use of solid solid surface materials as an alternative to traditional liturgical furnishings - e.g. altar mensa, communion table, bemah, etc. "Since the material comes in colors that are very similar to granite and in a polished or satin finish, one has a wide range of possibilities," says Malarcher.

Malarcher and Pinske hope to work together in the future on other unique solid surfacing projects. "We are pretty creative with solid surfaces," says Pinske. "We have already made some fancy etched treatments, a poker table, a roulette wheel and two fonts from the material."


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