Archive of: 2019


4) ORIGINS: The way I came into glass (part 1 of 4)

Written by Iestyn Davies

Creative Director, Contemporary Chandelier Company

We can only really teach others by example and from our own experiences. This is my story of how that worked for me using glassmaking as a vehicle to take me into lighting.

From an early age I was lucky enough to be encouraged by my parents and teachers to be a creative individual. That concept of working with my hands had been brewing ever since I was 8, chipping bits of stone in the garage, getting it in my eyes, melting lead on my Mum’s cooker and casting ingots in bits of plaster, building underground dens, constructing things… Soon it became clear that I would embark on further education in arts. I chose a foundation course.

One could say that I was never really an academic, but I also wanted the choice of my arts career to be a conscious one. I enrolled in a foundation course with a very strong educational concept which allowed me to explore different disciplines for a year. I discovered screen printing, drawing, painting, photography, ceramics and stone... I discovered I really enjoyed working in 3 dimensions and I realised I particularly loved making my mark and manipulating different base elements: clay, stone, wood, metal and plastics. Each have their own properties, physical traits, grain and density, malleability and methodology. I had the ability to coordinate, engaging my brain into finding out what things were and instructing my hands, with practice, to learn new skills.

I thought I wanted was to be a stone sculptor, starting with a block of stone. Inspired by the words attributed to Michelangelo, amongst others, when being congratulated at the unveiling of his immortal David: He was supposedly asked how he could produce such a masterpiece from a crude slab of marble, to which he replied: ”It was easy… all I did was chip everything away that didn’t look like David”.

I was all set, working towards the life of a lonely, single artisan stone-sculptor chipping away in a cold room somewhere.



The Future

They say that success is often measured by the time one survives in business. For over 30 years our small company have survived various recessions by adaption and I’m sure we can ride this out; initially we will be targeting the US and other non-British countries for our orders. We have just been commissioned to design and build an amazing jellyfish installation in a top sushi bar in Times Square, New York.

(But by the time we complete the order, who knows what new export laws may be in force!)

So where is the jubilation now?

Okay, you have probably worked out by now I voted to remain, a decision based solely on the fact that I do not and have never trusted our politicians. I would rather have the EU checking our questionable human right policies and, let’s face it, we are not a Great Britain anymore - we have become Brexit Britain. We are not the United Kingdom, just generally dissatisfied.

This is not to say that I in any way disrespect what, we, the people of the UK can and do achieve.

We are still great innovators and free-thinkers, but we do not deserve what we now find ourselves ‘supporting’. £40 billion pounds would have gone a long way to addressing the people’s concerns with communication, clarity and education without having to endure and pay for this farce.


Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.



As a footnote - here’s a surprisingly long list of just some our most successful homegrown brands that have been sold to overseas companies:

Rolls-Royce (first VW, then BMW), Cadbury (Kraft), Walkers (Nabisco, then Pepsi), Lea & Perrins and HP Sauce (Danone, then Heinz), Tetley (Tata Tea), Dulux (Akzo Nobel), Jaffa Cakes (United Biscuits then Yildiz Holding), Harvey Nicholls (by a Hong Kong-based company), Kit Kat (Nestle), Walls Ice Cream and Marmite (Unilever), Mini (BMW), Financial Times (Nikkei Inc., Japan), House of Fraser (Sanpower Group, China), Manchester United (American), Waterstones (Elliot Advisors, USA), Innocent (Coca-Cola), Beefeater Gin, Chivas Regal and Glenlivit (Pernod Ricard), Newcastle Ale (Heineken), Harrods (Qatar), Weetabix (Bright foods in Shanghai), Terry’s Chocolate Orange (now made in Poland by Mondelez), Scottish Power (Iberdrola, Spain), Heathrow (now owned by International Investors, led by Drupo Ferrovial, Spain), TFL and Arriva (Germany), The Times (Murdoch), British Steel (Indian Tata), Asda (Wal-Mart), Boots (Walgreens), Jaguar Land Rover (Tata Motors)




As a small business we are already being affected in what we can plan for, as is every business that trades with other countries. We do import specialist components, as do our suppliers. We also export large wooden crates filled with chandeliers every month to the US, Middle East or Europe.

We spent a lot of money last year exhibiting at our one Annual Trade show, 100% Design in London (this year, by the way, it’s Grand Designs Live, London in May). We were busy with both new and old clients, all of us inexorably tied into the luxury housing sector. We were told by many people that the majority of completed projects were not selling due to, yes you guessed it, Brexit uncertainty. The world is holding off making any decisions until this is sorted. Hmm, various sources say this could be from 5 and 30 years.

Our lead installer, Brett, resides in France and can usually be with us in the time it takes to get from Shropshire to Kent. Together with 1,999,99 other Brits, he is VERY concerned about his future in France. Will he will need a ‘carte de sejour’ to benefit from French health cover and to be working as a self-employed person in France. He may well require an international driving permit; his eligibility may depend on whether he is granted the carte de sejour. Whatever, he will need to totally reassess his rights in France. He and his wife recently attended a public meeting in their local town hall and mentioned that he had never seen 500 people look so depressed.

Obviously one can invert this scenario and see how ‘migrants’ here might feel.

That’s what it is – depressing.



Accountability for the future generations

Undoubtedly, we the great British public, have been misled and had our expectations squashed by incoherence and incompetence. It obvious now in hindsight that we were only told half the story at a point where it mattered most.

Many of us voted for Brexit as an expression of our dissatisfaction in our ‘governors’ and our political systems.

Personally, I wouldn't trust any of our politicians to work on behalf of the public. We are being led by the short and curlies towards an increasingly terrifying void by Theresa May, who let’s face it, I do not remember being voted in by the common man.

Like many other people in the UK I have no real allegiance to either the Conservatives or Labour.

Both parties occupy themselves with conflict, scoring one over the opposition, rather than the good of the country. We are literally paying for their mistakes. All profess to have our interests at heart, yet they appear more concerned for their jobs and retaining power. Our bottom line seems to be one of resignation or apathy and our future seems dictated by the repercussions of politicians running out of ideas, time and sense.

Ironically James Dyson fled to Singapore recently, Airbus and Nissan are poised to fly the coup, as are Sony and Panasonic. To follow are Jaguar, Range Rover, P&O, and JP Morgan to name but a few (36% of UK financial service companies have apparently considered or confirmed relocating their staff to Europe).

Conversely ‘migrant’ companies, such as Amazon, Google, Starbucks and Apple, should rightfully be criticised and penalised for their lack of tax contribution to the UK, but we all like a coffee whilst purchasing goods on our laptop, don’t we?                                   

Alan Sugar gave a memorable speech in October 2018 where he condemned the government suggesting that “if company law rules were to apply to politicians, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, amongst others, should be prosecuted and held responsible for putting the country under five to ten years of post-Brexit turmoil.”



What is this thing with immigrants?


Writing a blog has necessitated the need for me to check up on facts, statistics and opinions; I am not a researcher or writer; I am a glassmaker by trade and now a chandelier manufacturer who just wants to get some things off my chest.

“No deal” appears to mean that we are committed in placing every person and business in the UK (and let’s not forget those Brits who live and work outside the UK) in jeopardy for the foreseeable future. Oh, and let’s not forget all those ‘foreigners’ and ‘migrants’ on which we depend and have depended on for generations.

Immigrants were coming to Britain long before the welfare state was invented. Go back far enough and those of us who are not truly indigenous are, by definition, immigrants.

I have an opinion that I need to share. This is unusual for me as I do not have the time or patience for Twitting or Farcebook, and I dislike unsocial-media intensely as people disrespect others disproportionally, safe in their anonymity. I do not and have never had any personal accounts where I feel it necessary to air my personal views… until now.

Tonight, while writing I asked Mr Google a question in a Monty Python manner:

‘What have the migrants ever done for us?’

I read about 4 articles; this is what the word on the street is –

Without an inflow of external creativity, i.e migrants, we apparently would not have The Mini (founded by a Greek asylum seeker), Marks and Spencer (Marks was a refugee from Belarus), Thunderbirds (all happened after escaping from the Ukraine), or the House of Windsor (imported from all over).

I am not averse to roast dinners, fish and chips, Yorkshire pudding, a full English breakfast, Cornish pasties, or strawberries and cream – (just not all in the same meal).

I also greatly enjoy chicken tikka masala, spag bol, lasagne, chilli, pizza, Thai green curry, KFC, salt and pepper squid, and the odd mixed meat kebab in a naan, like millions of other Brits.

The 3% of me that is healthy loves a spicy Thai salad, pho soup, sushi (I do really like sushi!), hummus and falafels.

This is the serious bit ….                                           

What would we do without all the bus drivers, nurses, doctors, cleaners, skilled building contractors, footballers, Olympic sportsmen and women, child carers, musicians and artists who have travelled from around the world to contribute to our culture and economy for generations?

How about the Kenyans, Gurkhas, Muslims and Polish that fought alongside us in years gone by?




Perspective from a small business: Planning for Armageddon

We all remember the great big carrot (bus) story that proclimed that £350 million pounds per week would be free to spend on the NHS if we leave Europe; what we were not told was how much it would cost us to achieve this.How much it would cost to push the country over a cliff edge, without a care for health and safety, something we are normally pretty hot on as a nation.

I have run my own business since 1987, that’s 32 years of hard work; working on average 6 days a week. Much of my time is spent looking forwards and planning for any contingencies that may arise; we all problem solve on an everyday basis; I mean you have to second guess what may affect the smooth running of your business before it happens. You have to plan, don’t you? Otherwise you end up just reacting to outside stimuli with all the finesse of a single celled algae.

Now, I am not particularly political but over the past two years I have become increasingly annoyed at what can only be described as a political farce; I mean it’s just plain embarrassing, irresponsibility on a mass scale. We are all being told that we are leaving Europe in the very near future. Whatever the cost, apparently – with no firm plans – just acting on principal.

Like many in the UK, I am woefully embarrassed with our politicians since they seem devoid of common sense and the ability to plan for something they professed to know about. To complete the analogy, we are becoming one large ostracised amoeba, stranded in a fast evaporating drop of water.

There doesn’t appear to be any coherent plan, just the mantra; “the people have spoken, and it is our duty to listen and carry out their wishes”. We were not asked if we were willing to leave should our government be unable to arrange a proper strategy.

The other day I listened to three politicians profess that all of the three choices currently on the table were untenable, non-viable and ‘rubbish’ but in order to end the hell they are enduring they felt compelled to vote for the least humiliating, but could not decide which of the three. I’m sure that any one of us would put more planning into buying a washing machine.

Instead of the £350 million we were going to free up for the NHS, Brexit is apparently costing the UK between £500m and £800m per week, or around £40 billion so far, according to Mark Carney of the Bank of England.

Hurrah for Democracy.

European Council president Donald Tusk tweeted recently of “a special place in hell” for “those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan of how to carry it out safely". He could have just called our government irresponsible on a grand scale but I kind of like his sentiment.


3) Artistic AND viable?

Written by Iestyn Davies
Creative Director, Contemporary Chandelier Company


Through this blog I’d like to show people that you can survive and prosper in this world by creating work that is unique, individual yet still commercial.

Through sharing our experiences, our story and what we have learned over the years, we are hoping to inspire others and start a discussion about what is creativity, how is it considered nowadays, and how people can be creative. We are trapped in the “Age of Austerity” without any respite; I’m sure I am not alone in getting distraught about where the world is going in terms funding for creative industries; how it always gets cut, and how young people are discouraged to pursue their careers in arts. It’s the hardest thing to take yourself and your creativity to make your mark on the world.

There will always be different definitions of what constitutes and defines artwork of any importance. Similarly, there are various opinions as to what defines whether you are viewed as a craft worker, artist, designer, product designer, interior designer or designer-maker.

To summarise my view on the case, we are all of these things at some point. There are many people who want to create and don’t know yet what and how. I want to show them that anything is possible in terms of taking your ideas, your passions, and finding a vehicle to drive them. In my case it was the art of glassmaking, but it can be different things to different people.

Many people have a dream, and many do not know what it is they want, they just know the type of thing they want to pursue – it was the same for me. I had to find out what my dream was, and I think that’s how a lot of people are; not knowing what they want, confused and bewildered by their options. I’d like to show by my own story how I went from not knowing what I wanted to achieve something that I really enjoy and that has occupied me for all my adult life.

I hope this blog will serve as an inspiration to provoke some thoughts on that topic.


2) Social Media? Really?

Written by Iestyn Davies
Creative Director, Contemporary Chandelier Company


One needs to remember, however, that things are changing quicker than ever before. For example, we now live in a time when some companies are grown entirely online. With Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and many more, it seems that now you HAVE to show you are a human and able to connect, even when you are a big company. This is what we would like to show with this blog: we are genuine artists, we do listen to each and every client and we operate on a very personal level, tailoring our work to the tiniest detail in response to the intended end result. And even though we tried to show it in our customer approach, our marketing specialists remind us that in this modern day we might cease to be viable if we don’t put more effort into our social media.

I never had to think about blogging before and in truth I initially resented the fact that my company would have to commit even more time to this marketing task. It was only recently when I realised, we could show how and why we do what we do in a great new way. I realised that via Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest we have an opportunity to justify why we are different and valuable within market composed mostly of imported brands and mass-produced commercial lighting.


Photograph credit: Sally Sparrow Photography



Welcome to the blog of the Contemporary Chandelier Company!


We would like this blog to become a platform where we can share our insights on what it means to be an artist, product designer, glassmaker and an independent UK chandelier producer. We understand that the expertise we have gained over the past 30 years is a short, narrow line, but we would like to share some of that knowledge in order to inspire other people; be it young artists on their way to discover what they want to do, or people who are just interested in what goes on behind the scenes.

Over the coming weeks and months, we will be sharing some of our stories and keeping you posted about what is happening at Contemporary Chandelier Company.

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