Wrought Iron Art
WROUGHT IRON HAS TIMELESS APPEAL
Black iron is a red hot décor trend. Ornamental wrought iron need not be relegated to the outside perimeter of a house, as a fence or gate. The black metal looks as much at home inside a modern 21st-century house as it does in an English Tudor.
“The beauty of ironwork is that it can be as simple, or as ornate as you want. Ironwork is a conspicuous way that lets a homeowner convey a sense of style and yet has been one of the classic, constant elements in design through the centuries.”
The term wrought “iron” is a bit of a misnomer, however, since iron is rarely used to create the signature black metal pieces. For most craftsmen, steel, stainless steel and bronze are the metals of choice for ornate banisters, gates, fireplace screens and other architectural details.
And yet, ironwork continues to forge its way inside homes. “Although wrought-iron pieces should be beautiful, the aesthetics should never compromise its function. The wrought-iron piece must first work in the space and serve its purpose.”
Favorite wrought-iron designs have Art Nouveau and Art Deco influences, which can include such organic forms as flowers or butterflies, in geometric or repeating designs.
Wrought-iron pieces can be found from grand staircase handrails to decorative curtain rods.
But handmade pieces, constructed by artisan blacksmiths, still appeal to homeowners who want one-of- a-kind craftsmanship. Because ornamental iron is handmade, most of the expense is in the labor. But there are also price differences between materials.
Ornamental iron can be treated with the following to prohibit rusting: Oil-based enamel paint: Iron is first covered with a primer; then paint is brushed or sprayed onto the metal. Wrought iron can also be submerged in a process called dip-painting, which fills all cracks and crevices in the metal.
Portuguese fantasy at Versailles
Anyone visiting the Palace of Versailles in France this summer will be greeted by a pair of giant shoes made of pans, a helicopter crusted with Swarovski crystals and a giant wrought iron kettle, among other curious artworks.
These form part of an exhibition by Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos, who is following in the footsteps of other renowned artists such as Takashi Murakami and Jeff Coons.
Ms Vasconcelos is the first woman to exhibit at the majestic palace and its surrounding gardens and, at 40, is also the youngest artist to present her work there.
The contemporary artist − who worked as a doorwoman at a Lisbon nightclub and handed out freebies in a supermarket before becoming one of the brightest stars of the Portuguese art world − does not seek to fit into Versailles but to confront it.
Her work is made up of re-directions, metamorphoses and displacements of objects, cuts across time and shifts the symbols.
She questions notions of luxury and beauty by proposing works especially designed for the palace.
Her approach consists of the re-appropriation of everyday objects which she transforms using inventive and unexpected techniques.
Ms Vasconcelos has already shown her work in emblematic places such as the Venice Biennale in 2005 and 2007.
The exhibition opens today and runs until September 30.
Passages of time
When a band of visionary architects designed Paris’s shopping arcades at the turn of the 19th century, they used the best industrial-age technology, creating a labyrinth of wrought-iron structures topped with awe-inspiring glass skylights. These “passages couverts” offered pedestrians previously unheard-of amenities, such as gas lighting, heating and refuge from the filthy streets of pre-pavement Paris. Lined with elegant shops, fashionable cafes, theatres, reading rooms and public baths, the passages attracted a colourful crowd of shoppers, pleasure-seekers and flaneurs – urban dandies who strolled the arcades, observing and making sure they were observed.
Although the concept of the arcade was copied throughout Europe, construction of the Parisian passages lasted just a few decades; their demise signalled by the arrival of Paris’s first department store, Le Bon Marche, in 1852. Scores more passages couverts fell to Baron Haussmann’s wrecking ball the following year.
Two centuries on, about 20 of the 150 passages that criss-crossed the city remain and the Ville de Paris has launched a campaign to place these architectural triumphs once extolled by Balzac, Baudelaire and the Surrealists on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites.
First stop for exploring the arcades on foot should be the Passage des Panoramas. The city’s second-oldest surviving arcade – built in 1800 and immortalised in Emile Zola’s novel Nana – was named after the huge circular panoramas of historical scenes displayed at its entrance. The paintings, like the famous Cafe Veron, are long gone, with only the Belle Epoque facade of the restaurant L’Arbre a Cannelle (No.57) indicating the opulence of bygone years.
The passage, which thrilled visitors as the first gaslit public place in Paris, looks a lot less luxe today. Used by locals as a shortcut to escape the traffic on the grands boulevards, the passage has a quaint, old-fashioned feel. Passers-by can browse philately shops and vintage postcard dealers, and an intriguing autograph shop (No.60) displays letters by Rodin and Flaubert alongside signed photos of Ernest Hemingway.
Slow your pace to the ambling gait of the 19th-century flaneur and you’ll discover a host of other attractions, such as the ethical fashion store Maalkita, the custom art framer Annie Guillemard and Tombees du Camion, a kitsch “cabinet de curiosites” selling everything from porcelain dolls’ heads to 1970s jewellery.
The opening of Shinichi Sato’s Passage 53 in 2009 marked Passage des Panoramas as a new foodie hot spot. The young Japanese chef has two Michelin stars for his edgy approach to haute cuisine and bookings for his pocket-size restaurant must be made weeks in advance. Sato is also behind the new Gyoza Bar (No.56), which has hipsters queueing for pan-fried Japanese dumplings. Meanwhile, Parisian food bloggers are raving about the biodynamic wines served at Racines (No.8) and the market-based prix fixe lunch menu at Le Diable Verre (No.38).
Cross the road into Passage Jouffroy and the foodie vibe continues at Le Valentin, a tempting little tearoom serving traditional gateaux and handmade biscuits. Specialty bonbons including calissons, nougat and olives au chocolat (actually chocolate-covered almonds) can be found at La Cure Gourmande, a modern-day confiserie whose vintage-style packaging inspires nostalgia for the French childhood you never had. Pain d’Epices, a toy shop just across the way, completes the retro fantasy with its old-fashioned spinning tops, wooden duck whistles and chichi dollhouse accessories including claw-foot bathtubs and miniature chandeliers. Le Petit Roi (No.39) caters to fans of Asterix, Tintin and Becassine (the Breton housemaid who was the first female protagonist in the history of comics).
Those who wish to follow in the footsteps of 19th-century dandies should visit Galerie Segas at No.34. This red-velvet boudoir cum boutique keeps antique walking sticks made of glass, mother-of-pearl, woven grass and more. Pommels are fashioned into animal heads, talismans and even a bust of Francois Premier, but the real star of the shop is a rare sadomasochist crop from the infamous Parisian brothel One-two-two.
Those whose fantasies lean towards the Sofia Coppola version of Marie Antoinette should head to La Maison du Roy, a boutique with lavish decor that sells re-editions of baroque furnishings alongside genuine antiques. To experience a slice of history firsthand, book a room at Hotel Chopin (No.46), which opened its doors in 1846, the same year the passage was constructed.
This arcade, built between 1825 and 1827, failed to make it onto the historic monument list as Passage Jouffroy and Hotel Chopin did, and it fell into decrepitude. Now, thanks to a grant from Paris city authorities, Passage Choiseul will have its leaking glass canopy and peeling paintwork restored. It has an illustrious history: the writer Celine lived here as a child, and Offenbach’s Theatre des Bouffes Parisiens was founded at No.65. Choiseul’s bargain clothes, cheap luggage shops and stand-up lunch counters give the place a vaguely souk-like feel (which is fitting, given that Middle Eastern bazaars were a prototype for the Parisian passages). Careful browsing of this down-at-heel arcade reveals gems including the art supply shop Adam & Lavrut at No.52 (shop here for moleskin notebooks and painters’ smocks), and Boisnard graveur at No.83, recommended for Montblanc pens and leather wallets. After picking up a retro-style gift from L’Effet Bulles (No.11), enjoy an organic takeaway from Bioburger (No.46) or have a lunchtime snooze at Zen siesta bar (No.29).
Built in the same year as Passage Choiseul, the Passage du Grand Cerf has enjoyed a better fate. The arcade’s stylish wrought-iron work and wood-panelled shop fronts were restored in the late 1980s and the three-storey gallery is home to fashion designers, jewellery-makers and artisans, many of whom can be found beavering away at the back of their atelier-boutiques.
Approach the passage from the foodie neighbourhood on rue Montorgueil rather than the seedy red-light strip on rue St Denis and pay a visit to Anne Defromont, a gemologist selling antique jewellery and contemporary re-creations of vintage pieces. Next door, Sylvie Branellec puts an offbeat spin on cultured pearls, and Cecile Boccara (No.8) creates “textile jewellery” from luxury fabrics. Boccara’s work has featured on Roger Vivier shoes and she has designed couture accessories for Valentino and Christian Lacroix, who also catapulted jewellers Eric & Lydie (No.7) to fame.
Don’t leave the passage without checking out the vintage eyewear at Pour Vos Beaux Yeux, the handmade soaps at De Marseille et d’Ailleurs and the copious charcuterie platters at the hip neighbourhood cafe Le Pas Sage.
to be continued
STYLE AND QUALITY DEFINE THIS BUILDER’S FORMER MODEL HOME. THE INNOVATIVE LAYOUT IS VERSATILE AND UNIQUE WHICH FEATURES ONLY THE FINEST MATERIALS AND DESIGN.
WROUGHT IRON GATES, PRIVATE COURTYARD WITH SEPARATE GUEST HOUSE AND FOUNTAIN. CUSTOM BUILD OFFICE, SOUND SYSTEM.
Restorative artist rebuilds the past in Long Island City
By Alexa Altman
Balanced on wooden supports in Lisa DiClerico’s Long Island City studio was an 18th century European mirror. The 10-foot-tall relic suffered damages during a fire. Its previously ornate, gilded edges were left charred. The mirror’s sculpted glass, once reflecting the image of a figure now long gone, was coated in layers of soot. Many ornamental leaves snapped off during the blaze, leaving an enormous, historic puzzle.
The mirror was in pieces. DiClerico put it back together.
The restorative artist repairs and conserves antique furnishings and fixtures, rejuvenating vestiges from the past to their original splendor.
Growing up in Staten Island, DiClerico acquainted herself with art from an early age. Her grandmother kept an in-home studio where she taught DiClerico oil painting. Her great-grandfather excelled in sculpture, many of his creations still in DiClerico’s possession.
She attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, majoring in fine arts before switching to the school’s restoration program. When she graduated in 1999, DiClerico was unsure of her future.
“I wasn’t convinced that I wanted to be a restorer,” she said. “I wanted to paint and sculpt every day. I wanted a really hands-on art job with materials and techniques.”
DiClerico became captivated by the materials and techniques involved with restoration, mixing her own paints, pigments and glues. She adored learning the history behind the design and origins of pieces.
After graduating, DiClerico enrolled in a continuing studies program where she assisted with the restoration of a 13th century fresco in Florence, Italy. She said the experience furthered her perspective on the world of restoration.
After returning from Florence, DiClerico spent two years working with a studio furniture maker, exploring more deeply the techniques of woodworking while learning about the material. The tactile experience provided learning beyond what DiClerico felt she could access in a classroom.
DiClerico left the woodshop, going to work at S. Porter, a studio that focuses on restoration and conservation. To make extra money, she waited tables in restaurants. While waitressing at SoHo hotspot Giorgione, she met her current long-term partner, Alex, who was the restaurant’s executive chef.
As work became steadier, DiClerico left her side job and set up her own studio – a space she shares with a girlfriend from college who is also a restorative artist.
While DiClerico does not specialize in museum-type conservation, she believes staying true to the piece’s original design is imperative. DiClerico only uses antique methods and materials, handcrafting her own shellacs and avoiding contemporary paint. The key to conservation, she says, is reversibility. Anything she does should theoretically have the ability to be undone.
“Over time, if the color starts to oxidize or if 100 years from now someone wants to redo the piece, my additions can be taken out without any damage to the original material,” she said.
Various jobs can take anywhere from half a day to several weeks and differ greatly in need – a work perk DiClerico says keeps her on point and forces her to use creative problem solving. Most of the pieces come from private collectors who purchased them at auctions. She recently refurbished an art deco style child’s chair, recovered from the SS Normandie – a transatlantic luxury liner seized during World War II.
Several years ago, Alex decided to open his own restaurant, convinced by DiClerico to set up shop in Long Island City. Over a year, the couple designed and renovated the space, using found objects from a friend’s 20th century Flushing home before it was knocked down. Salvaged wooden doors became the baseboards for the restaurant’s bar and a gorgeous wrought-iron gate now adorns the eatery’s entryway.
“It was the universe saying ‘here’s a house full of really cool stuff that’s just going to go in the garbage,’” said DiClerico.
to be continued