Profile: Carolina Fontoura Alzaga

Caro with bike cog Photo by Fabiola Torres Alzaga

Caro with bike cog Photo by Fabiola Torres Alzaga

Carolina Fontoura Alzaga’s magnificent chandeliers and lights, made from repurposed bike chains, are not only stunning but hugely innovative.

View from below photo by Caro Fontoura Alzaga

View from below photo by Caro Fontoura Alzaga

Caro’s work has been shaped by her lifelong movement between spaces and cultures. The results tell a story of her experiences in these contrasting environments and shifting realities, allowing her artistic vocabulary to evolve.

Photo by Alan J. Crossley

Photo by Alan J. Crossley

Before moving to LA, Caro spent her childhood in Denver, Colorado with frequent trips to Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro to visit family. This broad world view influenced her artistic perspective urging her to be drawn to finding beauty and value in overlooked narratives and weathered textures.

Photo by Caro Fontoura Alzaga

Photo by Caro Fontoura Alzaga

Her belief in the varied functionality of objects and materials is very present in the CONNECT series. She demonstrates that something is rarely doomed to actually being ‘trash’, but that most things simply change their purpose.

“To understand the idea that something that had an original function does not need to have that same function…[you can] transcend that function”

Photo by John Valls

Photo by John Valls

Caro emphasises she is able to express her beliefs through her work, alluding to the strong themes of sustainability and recycling. She seeks to initiate a “reclamation of agency and influence” and by doing so “influencing that path of our future”.

Caro working photo by Alan J. Crossley

Caro working photo by Alan J. Crossley

She adds that although she is not out on the street protesting, she is hoping that she will be able to start a dialogue through her work. Her work shows that you can channel creativity with resourcefulness and make a visible impact on how people perceive discarded materials.

“you can make beautiful things out of unlikely materials, and out of trash – because it’s not trash. I mean it’s trash because it no longer serves its original function but that doesn’t mean it can’t have another function altogether. And that’s where our creativity comes in”

Photo by Caro Fontoura Alzaga

Photo by Caro Fontoura Alzaga

Understandably due to the labour intensive design and production process, these stunning chandeliers do come at a price. However Caro does not only accept money at payment, she also recognises the value of trading goods or services.

“I do barter in exchange for my chandeliers in select situations. The trade has to be comparable to the time and effort that goes into making a CONNECT piece. In the past I’ve traded a two-year membership to a yoga studio and even got a designer to make this website in exchange for a chandelier.”

Here is a short video about Caro and her work.

Handmade Portraits: Chain Reaction from Etsy on Vimeo.

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The Third Function: Reclaiming the Discarded and the Invisible

C2bPhotobyAlanJ.Crossley

Photo by Alan J. Crossley

The LA based multidisciplinary artist, Carolina Fontoura Alzaga (better known as Caro), has created the CONNECT Series of spectacular, cascading, and seemingly traditional chandeliers. These chandeliers however, are not made of glass or crystal but have been carefully crafted using discarded bike parts.

Carolina Fontoura Alzaga Photo by Alan J. Crossley

Carolina Fontoura Alzaga Photo by Alan J. Crossley

Caro professes that she became inspired to create the series when she started exploring the “third function” of materials. She describes the lifecycle in three stages of discarded materials being transformed and reclaimed into something new –

1. they serve their original function
2. their original function becomes obsolete and they become ‘trash’
3. they cease to be ‘trash’ as they are transformed into something entirely new

Photo by Caro Fontoura Alzaga

Photo by Caro Fontoura Alzaga

Through this process she seeks to transform objects deemed to be excess waste by “effectively reclaiming the ‘discarded’ and ‘invisible’ to create something far more powerful and commanding.”

Photo by Alan J. Crossley

Photo by Alan J. Crossley

As a result the “chandelier itself becomes a metaphor of reclaimed power.”

Photo by Alan J. Crossley

Photo by Alan J. Crossley

The CONNECT Series chandeliers are influenced by both modern and Victorian styles, as well as by bike culture, and a strong belief in the concept of sustainability and environmental preservation.

“The idea for ‘The CONNECT Series’ began from seeing pots and pans hung from a makeshift pot rack made from a bicycle rim. 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 it was the semantic mistake of calling it a bike ‘chandelier’ and not a mobile that led me to make a proper chandelier.”

C13photobyAlanJ.Crossley

Photo by Alan J. Crossley

Caro has a unique gift for recognising value and functionality in unwanted objects, allowing these to serve a purpose even if it greatly differs from their original use.

“In her art and her life, Caro works to find beauty in the discarded, and challenges the necessity of the new.”

Photo by Caro Fontoura Alzaga

Photo by Caro Fontoura Alzaga

Chandeliers from the Cape Peninsula

While visiting South Africa I came across some beautiful art and design projects, I was particularly struck by the chandeliers created by Riaan Chambers.

He produces unique, innovative and beautiful chandeliers fashioned from recycled glass, crystals, shells, horn and any object that takes his fancy.

The style ranges from Romantic to the ultra chic and I am amazed by the sheer volume of his work.

The variety is also enormous. Some incorporate vibrant colours lit up in the form of a long dangling glass chandelier, while others are more elegant and minimalist with a simple white finish.

There are also numerous smaller mobile pieces that incorporate shells and other organic materials.

Others are a combination, but the different shapes and sizes allows his work to fit into very different surroundings according to the particular style.

He predominantly uses recycled materials such as glass taken from old windscreens.

These magnificent pieces have a strong effect on their surroundings, setting the mood for a space. Their impact can often be somewhat overwhelming.

The colours and the materials combined with the size makes his work very impressive.

His chandeliers are displayed in commercial buildings, restaurants, hotels, as well as in residential properties.