Geared Up - Design Bureau

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Carolina Fontoura Alzaga sources old bike chains and parts from 50 local sources to build her Connect chandeliers by hand in her Los Angeles studio. The finished products are elegant yet edgy. Photo by Jonathan Valls

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Geared Up

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

By Kathryn Freeman Rathbone

It all started with a semantic accident. “I had the idea to make a mobile from bike parts, but instead of calling it a mobile, I called it a chandelier,” says Carolina Fontoura Alzaga, the Los Angeles designer behind the Connect series chandeliers. Her pieces, made from reclaimed bicycle parts, add a new twist to the term upcycled and a new take on the traditional chandelier. She walks us through her design/build process.

KFR: What kinds of bike parts do you use in your chandeliers?
Carolina Fontoura Alzaga: There are three parts: bike rims, bike chains, and cassettes, which are the gears on bikes that I break apart.

KFR: Let’s talk about structure—how do you hold all the pieces together?
CFA: The first eight chandeliers I made used cable columns. I basically stacked the parts and held them together with cable and metal clamps. Now that the pieces are much bigger, they need to be 100 percent solid and secure. Lamp parts are more rigid; I use them for the structure. I’m also learning how to weld. A friend who’s a structural engineer welds my pieces, and I’m learning by completely overseeing that process.

KFR: Even though they’re made from bike parts, your chandeliers don’t look grungy. How do you clean up the parts?
CFA: I get my chains from 50 local sources, so some have more wear and tear than others, depending on where they’re from in the city. I do everything by hand. I throw the chains into a bucket of degreaser for a few weeks, and then I scrub and dry them by hand and break them to size. My rims I source from junkyards. I degrease them, hand-dry them, hand-sand them, prime them a couple times, then paint them a couple times. I always use black paint. The pieces are in varying states of decay, and the black gives them a visual cohesion. It’s elegant.

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