A couple of weeks ago I headed over to East London, Bow to be precise, to interview the very talented maker Fiona Gall at her Bow Lane studio. Fiona started her business Emerald Faerie and has been making inspired pieces out of recycled materials for many years. And to channel just about every single politician right now, 'let's be clear' – this is not your average upcycling scenario. This lady knows how to take something old and turn it into something AMAZING, and as if that isn’t enough, she certainly knows how to handle a blowtorch too.
I sat down with the utterly delightful Fiona to find out more…
Tell us more about your background and how you became a maker.
I've always drawn and painted from a very young age. I completed a degree in Design Craft in Hereford - which was very focussed on making. When I was there I worked on a project which I centered on broken glass, being by the river, I collected bits of broken glass and used wire to join them together into what I called ‘Families’. This project and process led on to the Triffid lamps that I still produce now. My chandeliers started when I worked on a collaboration with famous shoe designer Terry De Havilland on a project called Cinderella's Revenge, it was a 8ft high, highly polished brass chandelier with spikes - all inspired by the materials Terry uses for his shoes.
And where is Cinderella's revenge now?
The chandelier (which Fiona affectionately calls ‘she’) is quite well travelled.. She started off in Terry De Havilland’s store, then was displayed in Liberty for a while and following that made an appearance in Lily Allen's pop-up store, Lucy in Disguise.
When did you launch your brand?
I never really launched my brand, it's been more of a natural progression, I started making when I left college in 1998 and it's just evolved through my creativity. After my collaboration with Terry De Havilland, I started to make bigger pieces, and I just developed from that over the years. I've always aimed to inspire and lift people's spirits and to make beautiful things – that's driven me.
How would you explain your creative approach and where do you draw your inspiration from?
My inspiration is nature – overgrown places and the Art Deco period is a constant source of inspiration for me. Some pieces that I find at car boot sales and antiques markets inspire me to make something I would not have thought about making. The materials and the objects that I find can be very informative of what I make. For example I'll find cheesy '70s vases in colourful glass and those would inspire a Triffid lamp. The birds of paradise wings on my chandeliers are originally from an antique ornament I found, I cut it up and made wax moulds of the wings and sent those to a foundry to have the bronzes made.
How would you describe your style?
I would say it’s eclectic, romantic and whimsical.
I would definitely agree – your pieces are quite magical!
Which is your favourite piece right now?
My favourite is probably the Triffid lamps, I love making the flowers and adding the dome makes them feel quite exquisite. I just kept developing them and over time and they became more and more refined. I also have a new range of called the Swift range, where I've taken vintage handbags and added recycled metal pieces as decoration.
To date, what has been your highlight since starting Emerald Faerie?
Lane Crawford invited me to Hong Kong for a two-week residency in 2014 and I got to work on their window display. The project was based on recycling and I was allowed to go through their entire warehouse and choose materials to create something new, I found some laser cut flowers and stapled them to a chair in a swirling pattern, I also added spikes, chandelier glass and wire and spray painted it all - that was a great highlight for me!
Where do you plan on taking your brand in the two to three years?
I've only ever worked with private clients so I'd like to get some of my work in stores, potentially Liberty and Harrods. I'd love to work more in the hospitality sector as well, to create some big pieces for hotel lobbies for example.
Yes- I can totally see one of your chandeliers in a hotel lobby!
Where do you call home? Tell us a little bit more about your own home and interior style.
My own home is across the road - it's a 1960s flat which is quite light. It's a live work scheme with the Bow Arts Trust. We rent, but they allow us to decorate how we want. I have a different chandelier in every room for inspiration! My interior style is quite similar to my work – an eclectic mishmash of styles. I do have some beautiful romantic wallpapers - I swap work with fellow makers, like Ellie Pop.
Can you give us a sneaky insight into something you're working on at the moment?
Yes - I'm developing some new smaller pieces that will be available to buy at the House and Garden Festival. I’ll have small light pendants in a similar style to the larger chandeliers and candle-holders made out of recycled glass bottles.
Do you have some advice for people looking to follow in your footsteps?
Just do it every day. Treat it like a 9-5 and put the hours in, even if you’re not feeling like it that day. And if you're able to, find a good intern or assistant to help out - you can contact colleges and find interns who are looking for work experience.
Great advice and lastly, what is your favourite thing about London?
My favourite thing about London is that you can do anything! You can decide what you want to do that day and you can probably just go out and do it!
With big thanks to Fiona for her time, and for showing me around her studio.
You may be wondering how Fiona’s intricate, whimsical style fits into a modern interior – this is a modern interiors blog after all! But this is exactly the thing I love about making a modern interior your own by mixing it with your own style. Fiona's pieces would make a stunning statement in a modern interior if you mix it well – her large chandeliers have such texture and drama and I think they would be even more striking in a modern space than in a traditional one.
Taking inspiration from Fiona's love of the Art Deco period, have a look at how I’d style one of her Gathering Goddess chandeliers in a Modern Art Deco style.
Chandelier: The Gathering Goddess by Emerald Faerie
Chairs: The Lovers Velvet Chairs in Blush Pink by Rockett St George
Wallpaper: Lines wallpaper, Ferm Living
Side Table: Gem cut side table by West Elm
Cushion: Art Deco Midnight by Elisabeth Fredriksson at Society6
Images 1, 2, 5, 6, 12, 13, 14 tashsouth.com
Images 3, 4. 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 Emerald Faerie