A large, conceptual chandelier

Yesterday¬†was my first day back in the shop from traveling to Germany and Italy for three weeks. I attended the Biennale Europa D’Arte Fabbrile in Stia, Italy. Henriette and I traveled there with a few other blacksmiths, and it was amazing. I will post photos soon (I promise).

Now that I’m back, I have a huge project to work on and a bunch of smaller projects as well. The big one is a conceptual chandelier for a private client. I’m going to try to share all the details possible — partly to show you want this is all about, and partly to help myself work through this, as it is easily the largest project I have ever attempted.

Where do we start? The client contacts me and tells me they are looking for a chandelier and they want it to be inspired by Tim Burton or Lovecraftian art, or to be spider-like. Another constraint is that it has to be close to the ceiling, because the ceiling is pretty low for a room with a large lighting fixture in it. They send me some photos of the space and pictures of art they like, and I begin sketching.

This is the concept stage. In my jargon, a concept and a design are separate stages — the concept is more concerned with the ideas behind the project. We’re looking for something that resonates with the customer and the space, and something that I am happy about building. A concept does not concern itself so much with methods of construction as it does with style and emotion. We’re trying to get to the center of what a chandelier means, what it does for the room; these are the Ur-chandeliers, from which all others are based.

Each project is different. For some projects, I know exactly what I’m going to do before I even put pencil to paper. Sometimes when I start drawing, nothing is quite right, and I have to sit with it for a while. I drink tea, I look at art, I procrastinate, and I doodle a lot. Finally, I come up with a few ideas that might merit more exploration.

Sometimes there is one idea that simply flows from the pencil. Whether it happens right at the beginning of the process or hours into it, I know that it or some variation thereof is what I want to make. From then on, it’s just a case of presenting it in the best light to the client — the Journeyman Restaurant Sign is one such example. Several days of back and forth pictures, and finally a doodle of a few curved lines and I knew I had it. For this chandelier, there is a lot of tea drinking and sitting in the sun. I buy a softer pencil and suddenly:

I know this one is it, but I have to present it to the client now. I send the images to my client, with a few words about each one, and ask them for a suggestion about which design to work on. In this case, I am most excited about the Sinew & Bone sketch. It’s different and conceptual: I was tired of drawing circles in the middle of the box, and I wanted something with a relationship, so I drew this chandelier reaching in from the corners to intertwine in the middle.

The client likes the Sinew & Bone sketch a lot, so we work out an agreement for design. The next phase of the project for me includes a design and a build proposal, complete with estimates and specifics about what sort of lighting will be used, how it will be attached to the ceiling, and all the other details. I ask for compensation because it is a lot of work. In this case, the design combined with the build proposal and estimate took me 20+ hours of work. You’ll see it next.

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