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my website Madeleine Boulesteix Chandeliers

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Small is Beautiful

This is one of my Duets for 3 candles. I've been trying to make more smaller pieces for Xmas stock. These actually take ages to make; because they're small they're more intimate so all the detail has to be spot on. I wasn't going to use turquoise in this colour scheme but I was holding some glass drops up to the piece to see if I wanted to use them and the turquoise was attached and suddenly they made the other colours sing louder. I'm thrilled to still be having these happy accidents even after 20 years plus of making my chandeliers because that's really the root of the way I've been working and I love a solution that I couldn't have planned. This is for sale for £295, you can contact me on the e-mail address on my website here. Info on size here, scroll down.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Studio Change



I left Carlton Mansions after 30 years - all my adult life really - because Lambeth evicted our 35 year old co-op. My work was born and nurtured here and I see how the decaying grandeur of my all time favourite building (and Will Self's!) influenced my work. When I moved in in 1984 Brixton was a very different place; some places were called 'no go areas' and some flats and houses 'hard to let' Imagine that!

Packing was a complete nightmare - there was no motivation as I didn't want to leave. Circumstances meant that I'd be taking half my stuff to Devon to be near my mum in her old age and half my stuff to a London studio which I finally found after months on waiting lists, so every item needed a decision of which of the 2 places to go to and you can imagine how much stuff I have as a salvage artist who hates waste!

So, moving forward I find myself beyond Bow in east London with a whole new area to explore; already got lost cycling but autumn has been so sunny and my favourite season for cycling in London that it's been a pleasure. I love my new studio, am gradually making it mine and have started to meet my customers there. It's probably a good thing to be in a completely new neighbourhood as leaving the glorious Mansions was so painful - I hate to think of it standing there empty without our 16 households keeping it warm and I think of the foxes who would prowl our stairwells at night - I hope they and the squirrels and wrens and tits who all nested there have all taken it over completely.

I love old industrial buildings and it's very hard to find a nice, affordable studio in London these days so all in all I'm very lucky. Most importantly Otis has made the transition well too - I am so proud of him. Here he is resting in the bubble wrap box in between explorations in his new country garden.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Some Recent Finds

Pickings from charity shops are often thin on the ground these days but I have found a few things recently in Devon. There are plenty of charity shops in Totnes, known as a 'bohemian' epicentre in these parts; look past the hippie stuff and it's great for healthy food shopping and eating, vintage and loads more. Transition Town Totnes initiated the Totnes pound to promote local economic sustainability, Brixton followed and others evolve inspired by the originators. 
In Animals in Distress I found this bean slicer.  I'd never seen one before, you screw it to the table like a mincer. I just loved it, especially the fact that it's green bean coloured. I haven't tried it with beans yet - my finds are usually destined for a life outside the kitchen - but I'll give it a scrub and have a go. 

In Tavistock I found 3 eye baths in one lot. Odd I thought. In my junk collection I have some glass ventouses from a Paris flea market and a box of test tubes, so maybe enough to consider a medical themed chandelier......

Also from Animals in Distress are these mini master-pieces; sewing machine parts for 50 pence each. Beautiful tiny sculptures, much bigger and they could be in the Tate Modern Gallery. In this shop I also got the box of spoons in top photo background (I use these in my Jelly Bowl Lanterns), a large Jaeger mohair scarf and a gents dapper paisley fringed scarf - so rich pickings there - just like the good old days.

And just because I haven't posted a cat photo for a while....spot an assistant stylist for the above shots.

Monday, 29 September 2014

London Design Week 2014 Highlights

It's always great to see what Paul the Rag and Bone man has been up to and these lamps were on show before they go to a hotel in Australia. I wish there was more one-off invented hand-made stuff like this in London Design Week so this was a real treat. Seeing that they all wind I think I have an old mincer to give to Paul. I used to have it screwed to a bench and kept my pencils in it but people kept winding it and crushing them!
If you didn't see Kevin Mccloud's Supersized Salvage where Paul and 2 other designers set to work on re using an old aeroplane do watch it on 4oD here. It's interesting to cost it all as it's a tragedy that it can be cheaper to discard than re-use, something we are trying to turn around.
I went to a big show too but it felt a bit like a department store, everyone's marketing is very smart and shiny these days, probably a good thing but I like things that are a bit rough around the edges or more accessible. For this Designers Block seemed the best to aim for in the big fairs.

And here I was completely taken by Camilla Barnard's prolific amount of carved and painted sculpture, beautifully done, charming and witty - I was so refreshed to see this. The little carved shreddies just made my heart sing. I love just knowing that there are people who spend there time obsessively working away enriching our culture making these objects from their imagination. So hats off to Camilla and to Paul my personal faves of London Design Festival.
Another hit was Old Sessions House the building Designers Block was in, I really wanted to see inside and it didn't disappoint, it's very very beautiful inside with amazing stairwell's and a huge dome but.....

....I discovered afterwards that it has a horrible history - read here. On the top floor the walls were part plastered and patched with layers of historic colour - very Rough Luxe I know - but very beautiful, the latter photo is definitely enhanced by my god-daughter elegantly stepping into the photo. They must surely use this place for shoots and filming - it is such an amazing backdrop and atmosphere.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

A Really Good Coffee

I've been working on a chandelier that I had to put on hold but I hope to finish it soon, it's called All Day Breakfast and uses little croissant moulds. I didn't know whether to add colour but then decided - since it was a breakfast theme - on different coffee colours from dark espresso through cafe au lait to a creamy colour. I am a lover of cafe culture and it's hard to beat the fix of a really good coffee mid morning, very often though you can get served a massive bowl of milky soup - yuk. Many years ago I met the designer Antonio Scarponi of Conceptual Devices when I was on a residency in Cork city during European Capital of Culture year. We were eating in a great wholefood cafe but never had the big mug of coffee there and I discovered he was even more particular than me about what a proper coffee should be. I think the Italians got the proportions perfect, the big cups are all wrong and the cocoa powder should go between the espresso coffee and frothy milk. 
Happily I had 2 really good coffees out and about in London recently so let me share with you a cappuccino that was less than £2 - yes! £1.70 in fact, nice and strong, perfect size at EATalia on Bermondsey Street. Another at £2 was in Waterloo, near Lambeth North tube at Perdoni's (also known as Riverside 2). It's amazing what we will pay for coffee caught with the urge - a powerful drug indeed. Do take a look at Antonio's devices: clever design with a social responsibility.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Barbican and Jean Paul Gaultier

Last chance to see Jean Paul Gaultier at the Barbican, this exhibition ends on the 25th of August. I'm so late to get to things otherwise I would have put this here sooner.

I didn't realise I was a fan but I loved alot of this. The variations on sailor stuff for men and women are so flattering to each, gorgeous shapes and lines; fat espadrilles on the men and big buttoned trousers and 30's shapes on the women. He really had fun with that. I also loved the stuff inspired by Mongolian costume: amazing.

I'm not at all a fashionista but I love creative revolutionaries. I think JPG loves men and women. I see so much fashion that I think despises women - I'm so sick of seeing women dressed up like men in bad drag - unflattering oversized everything, perched, pruned and pinched with sticky looking hair and eye lashes. This show was full of subtle, elegant detail - oh the old punks are the best!!!

Everytime I go to the Barbican centre I love it and wonder why I don't go more often. The residential bit always made me think of Star Trek from my childhood when they land in a strange place with no people - I am yet to see a human on a balcony here - or how I imagined Tokyo would be before I went there. I like the strange atmosphere. I went for morning coffee before the exhibition opened so it was very quiet, the centre opens at 9am, the gallery at 10. Membership looks like good value if you go to more then 3 exhibitions there a year.

I was taken to the front restaurant called the foodhall on the waterside there for a birthday lunch treat once - good choice, it's a great place to sit and eat and meet pals. I love the decor; lots of lights made from large jars, understated furniture and I really appreciated the unpainted columns left rough and ready - looked like a last minute idea to not paint them over as their texture and marks are so complimentary.

There - I think this ended up being an hommage to the Barbican Centre post - hope I sold it to you!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

My work is included in the directory of this online eco magazine Deco. You can subscribe to their newsletter and if you do that soon you'll no doubt get their preview of Design week; a selection of eco conscious design. I cant believe how quickly it's coming around again. I took part in Tent last year but this year I shall be a happy spectator and am looking forward to getting to Design Junction and Designers Block. The details of what's on are here. It's 18th-23rd Sept.
I used to avoid Design Week - too many silly chairs and superfluous stuff but I surrendered because amongst that I see a tiny handful of stuff that excites me.
This year Designers Block is in a building I always wanted to get into, Sessions House on Clerkenwell Green. It's opposite Craft Central's Corner Shop so when I was exhibiting there I looked onto this grand building.  You can start registering for tickets now.

And sorry for the huge gap in blogging - summer and straddling south London and Devon have something to do with that.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Vincent and Banksy

I think Vincent Van Gogh may have liked these hydrangeas; the intense purpley blue. They are are at the front of a house he spent time in. Did you know he lived on the edge of Brixton for a while? Yes, so the creativity of the area dates way back, he was there from 1873 -1874. I went into this house recently when an artist made an installation of the house based on it's history - more here - sorry this event is over now, but nevertheless interesting and you can pay homage at 87 Hackford Road, SW9.

So I really enjoyed walking up the stairs that Vincent did, holding the handrail he must have too.
I went to the Banksy exhibition at Sotheby's - and here is his homage to Vincent in this exhibition. Isn't it interesting that he ended up so Bankable, maybe he should update his name! I'm so curious how this has affected his stance and the sharp political insight of his early work.

And how do you know what's a genuine Banksy now? well obviously Southwark think this is one. It's quite painful watching everything become a commodity. As our community in Brixton is destroyed by Lambeth Council and our building will be boarded up this year (criminal!) I wonder that they will later want to capitalise on OUR history and the great old days when pioneers lived where others didn't want to, where residences were called 'hard to let' and where artists thrived creatively. 
And poor Vincent never saw the real appreciation of his work in his lifetime.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Summer Sea and Fair

I'm very happy that my chandeliers have been selling well at Two Kats and a Cow Gallery in Brighton. I've been working fast to restock. There's something about the light by the sea that enhances everything. I've been working alot with greens and turquoises. I prefer slightly muted colours, I think they look better with aluminium because it's not shiny. If you're getting your sun and sea in Brighton do visit this gallery - it's on the beach between the 2 piers.


...I have not been to the sea but to a country fair. I loved some of the old village games. The above of course is really timely (am enjoying odd binges of the World Cup) but I loved the quality of the painting. Is this considered folk art? I'm not sure the exact definition - maybe I'll find out more when I get to the British Folk Art exhibition at Tate Britain next week. I think of my work as urban folk art. I cant tell you how much the division between fine art and craft annoys me. Since I've been looking for a studio (really tough) I found that 2 of the major providers in London only consider fine artists. It makes my search doubly hard.

Zooming in on the background this reminds me of the 3D spectators I bought in a market near this fair, that I featured here on my blog. I love the passion in their creation - beats fine art anyday!

Saturday, 24 May 2014


Has anyone used the term 'oncycling' yet or can I claim it as my own?
I found what I will call 'oncycled' boxes today. Luckily these little things make my heart sing. I find these truly great sculpture. What was a box has been made into a new box and has reprinted new logo on the outside.

These are things of great beauty but also very strong boxes. I love that the base is a bit skewed and not a perfect oblong. In our increasingly shiny over designed world I appreciate this kind of thing even more.

These boxes have great texture. I found them in Brixton Village (I hate calling it that as it will always be Granville Arcade to me - and see this fantastic footage of it in 1961!) one of Brixton's market arcades, but how appropriate for me to have them for packing the materials of my upcycling endeavours ready for move day when that comes. Maybe I should re-label one with my logo for a 3rd life from biscuits to palm juice to chandeliers.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Squeezed Out

Well it's been hard to be attentive to posting whilst trying to work and facing eviction soon from my home and work place of 30 years. I will pay homage to an amazing building, home and community here another time especially as I realised how much my work has been influenced by this environment. 

I like watching the great tits nesting in our courtyard, I hope they won't be affected by gentrification and get squeezed out like us. But if they do it's probably easier for them to re-home themselves than us. These guys use this urn every spring and you hear the chicks go wild when the parent goes in with food.
I adore London, it's home for many decades but I really despair that it will become like Manhattan or Hong Kong: corporate and sterile. Soon there will be no affordable workspace for artists anywhere, no industrial yards, no curious unkempt corners, it will all be capitalised. 

So I enjoy the light filtering through our stairwells and courtyards whilst I can. I will miss it terribly. We did fight very hard to stay and after 3 visits to court and meeting some grown ups I hope never to have to deal with again I hope I never have cause to attend court ever again.

Making chandeliers makes me feel normal, I pick up the pliers join a few things and all feels right with the world or better; I must be lucky to have found something like that. There are so many rewards, like having my work hang over a Ron Arad table, even reflected in it. This article almost slipped by me but a friend saved it. The lovely house that I made this for was featured in the Times recently.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Cityscape painting

I bought this painting in a charity shop in south London a few months ago. I'm always amazed to still find stuff that's gone trendy - and this has it's scuffing and little tears that makes it bona fide shabby chic. I actually looked at it for ages before I decided to get it. It's so hard justifying bringing more junk in - especially since I face eviction which at worst could be in less than 4 weeks time but hopefully will be further into the future.
Anyway, one of the things that helped me decide to get it was a bod hovering behind me clearly waiting to see if I was going to decline. I kept hold of it as I wondered if I'd regret not getting it and watch them walk out with it. So, cheekily I taunted them a bit by keeping my decision slow and then got it - at only £5.99 I don't why it took so long. Nothing like a bit of competition I suppose. I would love to know where it is, looks Russiany/eastern Europeish, do let me know if you recognise it.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

To See

I've been making a real effort not to miss exhibitions and had a binge of viewing on Friday. Here is Phyllida Barlow's installation at Tate Britain - amazing, she really knows what she's doing. Utterly uncompromising original stuff.

So that was a good start, then on to 'Boro' at Somerset House, also free. Not allowed to take photos, but these are patched and stitched abstract textile pieces in cotton from Japan. See here.

Then I went on to the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons in Lincolns Inn Fields. I had known about this place for years but not yet been. This is full of jars of specimens, normal and mutated for study etc. There was a 4 legged chick and a 2 tailed lizard and creatures with too many legs. I didn't really like all the preserved foetus's etc,(funny that) but the bones really fascinated me; some with huge growths and awful diseases or just clever mending. Funnily enough I went with a GP who'd never known of it's existence until now. Google it's images to see if it's for you and maybe don't go just before lunch!

Thursday, 10 April 2014


My assistant joins me at teatime and as usual places himself at the hub of things.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Brighton Exhibition

I hung 5 chandeliers at this lovely gallery on Brighton beach. It's run by 2 talented painters; Katty McMurray and Kathryn Matthews. Everything seems enhanced by light reflected from the sea, but then I grew up looking out to see so it may be a childhood thing but this is a lovely location for a gallery full of very seductive things. So do get on down to '2 Kats and a Cow Gallery' for this lovely mixed show, and maybe chips on the beach to follow.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Whole Package

How did we manage before bubble wrap? what a great invention, and accidental as it was first intended for wallpaper, then the inventors thought it could be insulating but finally realised it was a great packaging material.  I found this great page when looking up the history of bubble wrap.. as you do. How have I not spent my googling hours looking up the history of boxes and packing tape too? but they cover all that and more. Their page on bubble wrap has several videos, one where you really cant see how it's made but has a very board looking machine operator and some mad music (with accordion!) one Chinese one that does show you the machines making it and one of cats jumping on it and popping the bubbles. All well worth a watch!

Latest Finds

I found this crate a few months ago, it's debris from Brixton's gentrification. I wondered why such a great box had been thrown out, especially as I know how much crates cost if you need them custom made. I looked up the name on it and the firm make plasterwork so someone round the corner has an elaborate plaster ceiling rose. I'm going to make it into a cupboard sometime with a shelf and some doors.
Shortly after finding this I found another gentrified box in the same street.

Well it's perfect shelving already, especially for bits and pieces in my studio. Again I wonder why it was put out for collection and they didn't have a use for it or the imagination for that.
I used to find nice old furniture in skips (in the good old days) but now with this posh packaging I shall make my own for the 'post shabby chic era'

Monday, 10 February 2014


I missed posting anything in January, not sure why, but I have been busy working with bright colours in the darker months.  This is thanks my customer Robinsons Goldsmiths who's shop in Bangor, Northern Ireland re-opens any minute now.  You can see pictures here. Cobalt blue in glass is a fantastic colour - it seems to magically invigorate all the other colours you pair it with. I love it with pink or yellow, here I worked with green and turquoise. This kind of thing fascinates me, I could spend my life marveling at what colour does.

I've been taking photos around the studio, partly for someone's book, (more of that when it happens) and partly just as sketches as it changes all the time. Leaving it this year is going to be very tough but I'm determined to find a nice new space to work in by chuck out time.

Friday, 20 December 2013


I hear there is a raging debate in the States as to whether Santa Claus was black or white, well maybe he was black AND white.....
Merry Festivities Blogland folk, have a fabulous 2014, whatever you celebrate the light will start to return after tomorrow.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

More Finds

I went to Kempton antiques market recently, a nice crisp sunny cold morning to go hunting for junk but I found everything so expensive, like retail prices. Next time I'll go at closing time when the prices come down. Anyway I was giving up hope of finding any surprising, inspiring treasure when I came across a box of Meccano for £10. I looked up Meccano and they still make it but it's gone the way of Lego: over-designed with little room for imagination. I mourn the loss of a nation of boys making trucks and cranes with working pulleys etc. from scratch!

Also in the box was this screwdriver. I think they still make this style but isn't the practical simplicity beautiful. I have been marveling at it's economy of design. One rod bent around and with one end flattened - ticks all my boxes.

Dresser Find Update

I ended up painting the inside of the glass door cupboard I got recently to lighten it up. I gave it 2 coats proper coverage to avoid any hints of that fake shabby scratchy style....have you seen B&Q do floor covering with a trompe l'oeuil floorboard of worn paint? Amazing, look at it here. It still perplexes me that the styles of arty folk of 30 years ago that were considered leftfield and quirky are now mainstream taste and the things we scavenged because no-one wanted them and because we art students had no money are now highly desirable and expensive items.

I added a narrow shelf at the top for all my tiny glasses. And if you love the LED rabbit light...it was £5.99 at 20 Storey in Market Row in Brixton market. This is a really nice shop and better than the shop at the Design Museum which I found massively disappointing. I've done all my Xmas shopping in Brixton, fantastic to get all that done without leaving SW9.
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