Thursday, 5 July 2012

Art for art's sake

The fun thing about art is that it can mean so many different things to different people, who's to say what works and what does not? You've heard the saying, one man's trash is another man's treasure, truer words have not been spoken. I honestly believe that any old thing can be turned into something priceless as long as you have the eye for it and you believe in it.

Let me show you what I have been up to lately, it's for a restaurant called Le Pain Quotidien (LPQ for those who can't be bothered) which happens to be owned by my husband and his two business partners, so all the more dearer to me. LPQ is part of a Belgian franchise and most everything in terms of the look and feel follows a template but there's always room for styling, so I had lots to look forward to when they recently opened their second restaurant in Bombay.

The brief: We need a piece of art for one of our large walls and some stuff to fill up a shelf. Yeah, that's the sort of detailed brief I get! But I wasn't complaining coz it meant that I was free to do exactly what I pleased.
My thoughts: The space has a lot of wood already so the wall needs something that would provide an interesting contrast to it. Cast iron would be perfect as a material. It has to be in keeping with the rustic feel of the place, and should definitely stand out from all the other decor ideas that people are used to seeing in restaurants. As far as the shelf is concerned, well that's going to be a tough one.

So off I went to my favourite flea market, scouting for possible sources of inspiration. I have to say that I have never come back empty handed from this place, in fact this time I came back with a couple of ideas for my future projects as well.

After walking the length and breadth of the market in the scorching sun, I spotted an iron grill hanging from a shop front. It looked like the sort of thing I could use so I asked the shopkeeper if he had some more, and out came a treasure trove of 10-12 more pieces in different patterns and sizes! These were scraps from old windows and fences which are often reused in building furniture...fitted under a glass table top or part of a small cabinet door etc. I desperately tried to contain my excitement as that would mean totally losing the edge in the negotiations that followed. I had found what I was looking for.

My plan was to put the small grills together and recreate the look of an old-fashioned window frame. Once I had secured my iron pieces I took them to my carpenter and sketched out the design that I wanted him to follow. As luck would have it, he had the perfect wood to match the grills, old planks of Burma teak with fabulous chipped paint! My heart skipped a beat when I saw it, everything was falling into place. He also did a fabulous job of putting the frames together and I have to say, I couldn't have been happier with the result.
Ready and waiting to be hung
Up on the wall

There was one piece which was exceptionally thick and heavy so I decided to just leave it as is for another part of the restaurant, and I think it works pretty well hung on its own...

I have to say that the shelf did give me a few sleepless nights. I had a vague idea of what I wanted but honestly most of it evolved as I went along. Two of my favourites from here are definitely the old weighing scale and the butter churner...

An old kitchen scale and a butter churner make up the odds and ends as part of a shelf display

Here are a couple of other things that I have put together across the two LPQ restaurants. Just a bunch of old things that one would find around the kitchen, but antique enough to be qualified as art when packaged right...
Framed: an icing gun, a bottle opener, a cork screw, a sieve and an ice cream scoop!
L: a ship's porthole converted into a mirror; R: antique kitchen graters
I am often asked the names of home decor stores that I frequent, and while I have my favourites, I can tell you that the thrill of digging something out from a pile in flea market is quite something else. So the next time you are walking past one, do not hesitate to take your time and discover something new for yourself.
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