Recycled Bicycle Chandeliers by Carolina Fontoura Alzaga

published in: Design, Interviews By Stefania Vourazeri, 09 October 2012

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photo © Carolina Fontoura Alzaga

CONNECT is a series of chandeliers inspired by DIY and Bike punk culture combined with aesthetics rooted in the Victorian era created by LA based artist Carolina Fontoura Alzaga. Her handmade bespoke pieces evoke a strong industrial look and invite the viewer to examine them up-close in order to come to grips with their fine details and the technical precision needed to put them together. Carolina managed to master the challenges faced by resilient materials such as bicycle chains and cassettes and created a stunning collection which also addresses universal themes around sustainability and the environment. She admits to having a strong connection with  urban bicycle culture and hopes to inspire audiences to question their ideas on what is beautiful and functional. Yatzer briefly discussed her ideas behind the project, choice of materials and conceptual preoccupation with the universal themes that this work touches upon with the artist herself….

Carolina Fontoura Alzaga, photo © Alan J. Crossley

How and when did the idea of making chandeliers from recycled bicycle parts emerge?
The idea for 'The CONNECT Series' began from seeing pots and pans hung from a makeshift pot rack which had been created from a used bicycle rim during a time that I was completely immersed in DIY and bike punk culture. In turn, it inspired me to make a mobile made from a bike rim, bike tube and bike gears. The result was lovely but too simple and the semantic mistake of calling it a bike 'chandelier' and not a mobile, led me to make a proper chandelier.

Can you take us through the artistic and technical processes that are involved in assembling and transforming the recycled bicycle parts into chandeliers?
My pieces often ‘reveal’ themselves to me as I begin to work with a medium. To create CONNECT 1 all I had was an image in my mind's eye. Although I sketched out some forms, it was through the action of creating that I familiarized myself with the nature and logic of the material and understood its capacity and limitations. It guided me through how it needed to be assembled. Of course, there was a tremendous amount of trial and error - taking 3 steps forward and 2 steps back.

The process since then has been an exercise in iteration and in doing so, further developing a close relationship to bike parts as a material. I've certainly had moments where I felt like I understood it in a way most people don't.

photo © Carolina Fontoura Alzaga

photo © Alan J. Crossley

Carolina Fontoura Alzaga // left: photo © Patricia Alpizar, right: photo © Fabiola Torres.

Do you consider yourself more as product designer than an artist?
To me it's one and the same. One informs the other.

Which are the challenges that you seem to face when making chandeliers with non conventional parts, in this case bicycle parts?
The most challenging aspect is making each chandelier an approximate perfection despite the imperfect nature of the material. I've had to surrender to the rhythm of creation and accept regressing in order to progress.

photo © John Valls

photo © Carolina Fontoura Alzaga

Have you ever considered making chandeliers from any other recycled material?
I didn't start out being interested in lighting but now I absolutely love it! The CONNECT Series is bound to bikes as a material so as to maintain the integrity of the concept. It can't have motorcycle parts or anything else because then it's not TCS, it is something else. I'm sure that in the future I will be making other sculptures with lights in them as well as other proper lighting fixtures. 

Which are the broader themes you touch upon and why is it so important to address them through your work?
Visual art has the unique quality of being able to relay information on a level that language alone cannot access. There's an immediacy to this sensorial reaction that is very special. 

What I find pleasing about these bicycle chandeliers, especially when seen in person, is that they command attention. They trick the eye - most people usually confuse them with regular chandeliers but have a moment of surprise once they get closer. Ultimately, they also trick the mind – Audiences ask how is it that such an industrial material can seem simultaneously light in weight and so elegant? Once the pieces have your attention, they draw you in and hopefully lead you somewhere. 

My hope is that they will inspire audiences to question their previously established ideas on what beauty, function and form are, who established those ideas and why? Most of us go about the world accepting ideas as immutable fact when in reality, things are much more dynamic and malleable.

photo © Carolina Fontoura Alzaga

photo © Alan J. Crossley

ETSY: Handmade Portraits: Chain Reaction

photo © Alan J. Crossley

photo © Carolina Fontoura Alzaga

sources:

Carolina Fontoura Alzaga

  • friend
    James Vella Clark | 2012-10-09 11:17:11

    So very inspiring! One such thing that when you look at it you say "wow! and how come no one ever thought about this before?" This is what defines a masterpiece and originality! Well done!! Are your creations for sale?

  • friend
    Yatzer | 2012-10-09 20:29:08

    Available at http://facaro.com/

  • friend
    Rachael | 2012-10-09 15:20:17

    Before I clicked the post, I really did not expect these to be that awesome! This is wonderful, a masterpiece.

  • friend
    RAFAEL VERA | 2012-10-10 19:24:45

    Maravillosas!!

  • friend
    james | 2012-12-12 21:19:59

    The idea is great and bring the love of bikes into the house, but i feel that the purpose of a chandelier is to throw light whereas this design blocks it.

  • friend
    Caro | 2013-01-12 18:54:12

    James, you'd be surprised to find out that the light cast by the chandeliers is actually quite beautiful precisely because it has to travel through each and every space in the chain. The shadow cast on the walls ends up looking similar to how crystal breaks up the light. Also, there are some forms that integrate "windows", spaces between clusters of chain that are left open for light to emit through unobstructed by anything.

  • friend
    Norov | 2013-01-16 18:28:32

    This is not recycled..its reused, it is not the same!!!

  • friend
    Kean | 2013-02-21 03:59:44

    These are so cool! I'm a bike freak myself but never thought like this. You have a real creative mind and amazing talent. Never stop doing what you do! :)

  • friend
    Mark | 2013-05-21 23:33:32

    Beautiful, they must weigh a ton.

  • friend
    Viki | 2014-02-20 17:24:41

    Wounderful !!!!! I love recycled art!

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