Earlier this year, US President Barack Obama and Mrs Obama acquired two chandeliers for their new home at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Apart from the fact that they paid for them personally rather than using the White House budget, two things set them apart; they come all the way from the tiny Overberg town of Barrydale, and they’re made almost entirely from ‘junk’.
Magpie Design Studio, essentially an art collective run from an old double storey building in the heart of town, started operations in 1998. Six years ago they moved to Barrydale where they promptly set up recycling bins on the veranda and invited the public to drop off recyclable materials. While they have historically used a lot of repurposed materials in their creations, it was in Barrydale that their materials base shifted to the PET bottles, glass, plastic, tins and paper dropped off by the community to make their artistic creations.
Their multi award-winning work represents their belief that their approach makes a difference to the environment and brings about a new aesthetic aligned to the ethics of the ever-increasing numbers of consumers concerned with their personal carbon footprints. As a result more and more of their clients are turning to energy efficient lighting and changing other lifestyle habits to have a lower impact on resources.
Magpie’s design team tries to use the best lighting solutions for creative designs that speak to the ethics and aesthetic desires of a growing, sophisticated clientele. They are best known for their chandeliers and lighting installations although they do produce other furniture items and accessories.
The two pieces bought by the Obamas – the La Riche Ella and the Princess (pictured) – are regency inspired and lean towards a classical interpretation of a chandelier, but they also create a number of unique designs for sale in their own gallery, as well as offering a bespoke service, creating installations for private homes, restaurants and offices worldwide.
Shane says, “Chandeliers are extrapolations of people’s ideals. A great deal is said about the person who owns a chandelier as it represents much of the best of what they idealise and see as representing an object of beauty in addition to it being a practical piece that lights a room.” He adds that the Obama’s purchase paves the way for a new aesthetic, where an appreciation for what is, is valued more than what it is made of; it’s more to do with what the object represents or symbolises.
The business includes a strong social responsibility aspect – the Rooi Doppies Project, www.rooidoppiesproject.moonfruit.com – that includes the development of a craft project to help locals generate income, rather than just being employed. They are trained to reproduce designs either marketed as stand alone pieces or as components of larger, more elaborate installations. Magpie also offers technical support to NGOs in the district that focus on health, human rights and social development.
They believe all businesses should behave ethically and that forming relationships with state service providers is essential to help develop the capacity and quality of life of others. Every December 16 sees a ceremonial tree lighting ceremony (the best LED technology is used) with dancing, singing and performing around their Christmas tree installation made of alien wattle and repurposed PET decorations, which are made by children from an NGO called NET VIR PRET.
Shane says it is their way of thanking the village for its support. Aside for the Christmas tree, they host annual exhibitions and parties and showcase new trends with different, fun themes. They are hoping the planned 2010 Masked Ball will draw visitors from near and far. Their creations are evocative and stunning testimonies to what is possible with innovation and inspiration.
Source: Life in Balance
Visit Magpie Design Studio at 27 van Riebeeck Street in Barrydale, call 028 572 1997 or visit Magpie