Object: octopus chandelier by Adam Wallacavage
Location: ceiling of the Jules Verne room in the designer’s South Philly home
Background: Wallacavage went to University of the Arts for photography and is a founder of Space 1026. He found his calling — making fantastically trippy and ornate chandeliers that resemble sea creatures — in the early aughts. He bought his large home on the cheap twelve years ago. It’s just a few blocks from the East Passyunk corridor, whose streetscape is a fascinating snapshot of mid-gentrification, with old-school stores selling girdles and christening gowns happily coexisting with gelataria and indie boutiques.
Wallacavage stumbled onto the chandeliers once he started kitting out the house to use as a backdrop for his photo shoots. He continues to use it as his “sketchpad.” There is a constant trilling in the background, thanks to the creatures inhabiting a window full of bird cages overlooking Broad Street. Standing inside his Jules Verne room feels like you’re standing inside a Fabergé egg—if the House of Fabergé had summered in Wildwood.
Context: Wallacavage doesn’t consult any source material for his creations—these suckers spring directly from his head. He did, in fact, spend summers in Wildwood and he loves the beach and sea. He devised his process through much trial and error. The base structure is created with wire which is bent into shape, then wrapped with fabric and tape. He covers that with Magic Sculp and has about an hour until the putty hardens to sculpt it. His studio is on the third floor of his house as is his spray room (where he hand sprays each piece) and another room for applying an epoxy resin to provide the shine.
Inside Wallacavage’s “spray room”
His style has been called Victorian gothic, and the pieces do seem to echo the Victorians’ fussiness and their obsession with natural history. Maybe the Victorian-era home for which he first created these chandeliers was an influence, but the place was all hacked up by the time he bought it. Wallacavage visited the period rooms at the Philadelphia Museum of Art for inspiration regarding mouldings and fixtures.
Wallacavage also told me he’s heavily influenced by skateboard culture and the Lowbrow Movement or Pop Surrealism. I think that movement aligns well with the predilection of a certain type of Philadelphia designer to delight in the weird and eccentric — one of our natural resources, in this case for the better.Pin It