Studio Visit with Adam Wallacavage

by JL SchnabelPosted on

Located on the main street that cuts through the city of brotherly love, photographer and chandelier architect Adam Wallacavage has created his incredible home and studio. Feeling akin to a modern pop museum, glittering candy colored chandeliers hang in rooms filled with art, chattering love birds and odd collections of nostalgic objects. On the top floor of this colorful and hypnotizing cosmos is Wallacavage’s studio where we had a chance to interview the artist as he prepares for his show at Choque Cultural in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Can you talk about what initially inspired you to create chandeliers?

It was simply out of necessity. I wanted things for my house that didn’t exist or if they did, they were unattainable. I didn’t have much money when I bought my house 10 years ago, so I made do with what I had and getting into the ornamental plasterwork for the crown molding and decorations was cheap. $40 worth of plaster goes a long way. I made molds of pieces of plastic gaudy frames I found at flea markets and pieces of carved wood I found in the trash and reconfigured them onto my walls and ceilings. When it came time to get chandeliers, I just started sculpting them in clay and cast them.What’s your process like?With a deadline, I can produce things rather quickly. A full chandelier from scratch takes about a month but if I’m working on several, I can make a bunch in a month.

You have a lot of amazing collections. Does this inspire your work?

I’m sure it does but I really don’t think too much about it. I have a huge art book collection but I rarely look at anything. I’ll work on a specific chandelier for a while and when it comes time to painting it, I normally have no clue as to what color I’m making it. The way I paint them is a process that is unpredictable. I use pigments mixed in secret sauce and never really know how the colors are going to turn out. I just keep painting them til it looks pretty. If I’m looking for inspiration, I’ll grab a couple books and look for colors from other artists. My favorites are Niagara Detroit and Camille Rose Garcia. I’ll try to rip colors from them but it never really turns out that way exactly.

How does living in Philly influence you?

I live here because my family is nearby and I have a lot of great friends here. There’s a lot of great artists here as well who I love visiting too. NYC is close and so is the beach (2 hours) and I like to get away when I’m in the house too long.

How much does your personal living landscape effect your working environment?

I love hanging my chandeliers all over the house and seeing how they look in different rooms. I’m at the point with the house where I can work on a specific idea in one area and spend as much time as i want on it. Right now I’m converting my old photo studio into some sort of ballroom that leads to an outside deck in my backyard. The theme is going to be some sort of Gothic blend with a Bollywood/Indian style. I started working on it in October but probably wont get back to it til the Spring. I can just shut the door and forget about it which is nice. It’s fun trying different styles. I have no idea what kind of light fixtures I’m going to make in this room but hopefully it will be something dramatic. I love making the octopus chandeliers which were inspired by my Jules Verne themed dining room but I want to make something different too. I’ll make the same thing over and over again because it’s fun to explore one specific idea. I used to feel critical to artists who only did one style but then I found myself in the same boat. It’s not about being afraid of trying new ideas, it’s about working out an idea until it’s exhausted and then using all things you learned and discovered into something else, however, sometime that something else ends up being the same thing again.

Do you work on many pieces at once under a direct cohesive collection or many pieces at once?

It depends. I’m working on my show at Choque Cultural Gallery in Sao Paulo, Brazil at the moment and the pieces are inspired by a specific idea but it’s not something that will be literal. My show at Cory Helford gallery this Spring is going to be a theme on the lines of a sample sale. I want to create all kinds of different pieces that have no cohesion at all.

Were you formally trained or did you teach yourself?

I went to University of the Arts here in Philadelphia and I studied photography but I took a lot of elective classes such as sculpture, screen printing, stone carving, ceramics and mold making. I love mold making but I didn’t know what to do with the things I learned with that till I bought my house. Most of what I did in the house with the ornamental plaster work, I learned on my own because information on it was so scarce at the time. The chandeliers were the same too because I had to figure out how how to cast plaster over the threaded tube I use for the wiring.

What is the ideal place or environment you imagine for your work while you are creating?

I like them in public places like restaurants and such but houses by the sea are always nice.

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