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Accepting Defeat...For Now

My heart is broken.

I was hoping to have different news to report this evening--you know, something like, "Hey all!  Look at this amazing chandelier that I created with my own two hands and pure creative genius!"

But alas, my creative thinker has been defeated by the "much harder than I thought it would be" chandelier project.  Sob.

No worries, though.  I've headed back to the drawing board so that I can take another stab at it next weekend, and as mother always said...if at first you don't succeed...try to blame someone else for your failure!  Ha!  Just kidding.  My mom didn't really say that!

But seriously, here's what happened...

Everything started off well.  The plan was to use a frame from Ikea, along with some faux capiz to make an amazingly-spectacular replica of this chandee from West Elm:

I've had my eye on this lovely lady for quite some time (it's been on my wish list since March, and it's pinned on my Pinterest account), but the price ranges from $250.00-$300.00 depending on the season.  Right now it's listed at $299.00 on the West Elm site.

Well, a few weeks ago I came across a few examples of faux capiz light fixtures, and I thought, "eureka!  I'll make it myself!" 

Last weekend I experimented with some faux capiz solutions, and found that simply ironing sheets of wax paper together created a pretty similar appearance to that of capiz.  So, this weekend, I whipped up a large batch of ironed wax paper, and then I started cutting...

...and cutting

...and cutting...and cutting the sheets down to 1.5"x2.5" rectangles.

Next, I used a tiny hole punch (donated to Project Chandee by my friend Jennifer) to punch out holes in the top and bottom of most rectangles, and just the top for others (this will make more sense soon).

Then I used jewelry chain that I found at Michaels to create strands of waxiz (wax paper capiz) for my chandelier.

Hopefully now it makes more sense as to why some of the rectangles only were punched on the top (those were the rectangles at the bottom of the strand).

Now, this is where I must take a moment to disclaim to anyone out there who is contemplating a similar project that this is an excruciating process!  It goes very slowly.  One link at a time.  Rectangle.  Link. Rectangle.  Link.  Rectangle.  Link.

As much as I tried, I found that there was no way to mass produce these strands, so if you feel the inspiration juices flowing for a project like this, here are my recommendations:

  1. Have entertainment prepared.  I think I earned a degree in Natural Sciences from all of the National Geographic documentaries I watched on Netflix this weekend.  A good playlist is a must-have as well.  Pick your favorite tunes, and jam away (cuz, trust me, you're going to be there for a while)!
  2. Work in phases.  I found that my hands would get tired when I was working with the jewelry clasps since they were so small.  I worked in a circuit.  Cut-punch-clasp.  Cut-punch-clasp, and repeat.  It felt like I was moving slowly, but the cutting gave my hands a break from all of that clasping, which helped me to keep going with the project.
  3. Take breaks.  This saves your neck, back, and hands from all of the tension you are creating with this task.  I know that sitting in a chair, making chandelier strands does not sound that tiresome, but when you give it a go, you'll see what I'm talking about.
  4. Lastly, this is not a fingernail friendly project--so those with perfect manicures beware.  My nails were chipped, bent, and scratched up from opening and closing the clasps.

One thing that I was struggling with was estimating how many strands I would need to make.  At first, I figured I would just make strands until I ran out of paper, but once I saw how much work went into making the strands I knew that I wanted to eliminate as much extra clasping as possible...and so, I made a prototype:

To make this, I simply wrapped some twine around the frame and held it in place with painters tape. Then I used a keyboard stand to hold the frame off of the ground. 

As I finished a strand I would hang it from the twine.  This helped me to see how many strands it took to get the spacing and the coverage that I liked. 

Up until this point, everything was going fine, but when I started to work with the frame, things started heading down-hill fast.

First, I hadn't realized that the back of the Erikslund picture frame was stapled, instead of held in place by those flimsy metal pieces that most frames use.

So, using a screw driver, needle-nosed pliers, and yes, a left-over mini-blinds bracket (don't judge, that little hook at the bottom worked wonders), I pried each staple out.  Be careful here.  This is where I obtained my first battle wound.  Bloody knuckle!  Ouch!

As if prying my way into the frame was not enough of an obstacle, once inside I found that the pane of glass was secured by super goop (aka hot glue-gun)!  Dang it Ikea!  Why do you care so much about your customer's safety?!?!  Don't you care about the customers who want to use your product for something outside of the manufacturer's specifications?!?  You know, something like using a picture frame to make a chandelier?!?  What, like you haven't seen that before?  Sheesh!

Luckily, the needle-nose-pliers were able to pull out the glue and I finally was able to view the frame on its own!  Halle-glue-gone (aka, halleluiah, the glue is gone)!

As I looked at the pieces, I thought it would be genius if I could use the original back of the frame (you know, the one I pried all of those staples out of) to serve as my inner-frame, but there was one little problem...it was solid, and I wanted some light to be able to escape from the top of the chandelier.  And so I measured, marked, and highlighted the areas that I wanted to cut out (imagine the pink scribbles as cut out holes).

And then I measured, marked, and highlighted the inner, and center rows for the waxiz strands.

Let me pause to explain that.  You probably noticed that the West Elm chandelier had layers of capiz. Each layer is a little bit longer than the layer before it, creating a stepped look.

While these layers are beautiful, they also beg the question, "how the heck to I hang everything without tangling the strands?"

My solution was to tack on "hooks" so that I could hang the fixture itself, and then just attach the strands at the end.

Well, as I moved along, hammering and nailing, I realized that I should probably cut out the holes that I had marked to see if the frame was going to be strong enough to hold the fixture.

Good thing I did, because as I drilled the starter holes, the backing would fold beneath the weight.  It was then that I realized that my entire day's work was for naught.  

So now I'm left with a backing that looks like someone used it for target practice...

Oh well, I'm not out of the game yet, just back to the drawing board, and here's what I know...

--The waxiz strands are working as intended.

--The outer frame is the perfect size and shape for the fixture.

--Balance and support are the challenge here, since my version will only be a one-light chandelier.

I need to think of a solution that will add a bit more stability to the frame, but still allow for light to pass through, and strands to hang down.  Any suggestions?  What approach would you take if you were trying to build this fixture?  I'm sure the answer is out there somewhere.  Let's put our brains together!



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Reader Comments (2)

keep trying!!! i can see that it will be majorly successful! can't wait to see the end product.

I just happened to click on your link from YHL.

August 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commentererin

Thanks Erin!

I think that I've finally figured out a good solution, and I'm very excited about it! In the words of the Black Eyed Peas, "I Gotta Feeling!"

Mark and I just made a trip to Home Depot, so now it's just putting the puzzle together. I'm having so much fun with this challenge though!

August 2, 2011 | Registered CommenterAHPCH

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