Laura Cartledge heads to Hove and finds fantastic lights that would brighten any décor.
For Maxine Michaelides her ‘lightbulb’ moment came while on holiday.
“We were in New York and we saw a jar which someone had put a bulb in through the side. I thought ‘that’s interesting but I wouldn’t necessarily do it that way’,” she explains.
“Then it evolved into something else. Now I can’t look at anything without thinking ‘could a bulb fit in that,’ or ‘could I put a bulb on that?’”
This obsession has grown to become Lost and Foundry, which prides itself in turning ‘world-weary treasures’ into lights ‘which charm and intrigue’.
There is no doubt they do just that.
Author William Morris once said “have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” – these funky furnishings tick both boxes and offer a great way to give life to things that’s only purpose otherwise might be taking up precious space.
No stranger to being creative, Maxine’s previous jobs have ranged from set design to working on the refurbishment of the Sherlock Holmes Museum in London.
“I had to get normal jobs in between too,” she says. “Last year I quit all that work – sometimes you just have to take that jump. I feel lucky to be able to make a living from something I enjoy.
“It’s been good, it has been really steady. I did a lot of jobs for shop fittings across the country in the summer and now people are approaching me and asking me to convert items for them.
“I’ve done a lot of animals, from statues of dogs to ceramic swans.”
Maxine (pictured with partner Tom)sources many of the weird and wonderful objects from antique shops and markets, meaning each is unique.
“Some people do want a set, say for bedside tables, but I struggle with that,” admits Maxine. “I like that there is always something unexpected about them, I try to use all of the original elements.
“A lot of these things would have ended up in the bin so I like having saved them too.”
The quirky charm of the pieces Maxine creates comes from the fact you see the object first, then realise it is a light.
As a result she is careful to make sure her work is balanced and considered.
“Most objects have a challenge, such as how you can wire for the bulb so it can fit the shape of the piece,” she explains. “But this is the bit I like best, with my drill – I have the most amazing drill.”
So what doesn’t she enjoy?
“It can take me 15 minutes to wire one,” she replies, “if you times that by 40…”
Stocking numerous local shops, a stall at Brixton Market and providing pieces for Brighton’s Dynamite Gallery means demand is high.
It comes as no surprise then that Maxine got tired of making the pieces only to have to send them off to be put through portable appliance testing – better known as PAT.
“I am very independent and I like to know how to do things myself,” she smiles. “So I did my City & Guilds to be a PAT tester – I could do it as a job but I’d find it really boring.”
It would certainly be a waste of Maxine’s boundless creativity too.
Typewriters, jelly moulds and even microscopes have been given the Lost and Foundry treatment.
“I did fairylights out of vintage shot glasses and made a light from a red trike,” Maxine adds, revealing she can find it hard to know when to stop.
“My partner Tom gave me a gorgeous tin for Christmas and I said it wouldn’t be a light… but it will be.
“When I met Tom, many many years ago, he was doing the silk flex [covered electrical cable] before it was fashionable. He taught me how to do wiring so now he is more my aesthetic adviser.
“I’ll ask him ‘what colour flex should go with this? Does this look good on that?’” she laughs. “I am quite kitsch and quite crackers, his style is weird in a different way. Which means sometimes he’ll say ‘no it looks stupid’ and I will say ‘good’.”
Lost and Foundry creations can be found at:
Wickle, High Street, Lewes www.wickle.co.uk
Urban Fox at eras of style, 16 Terminus Road, bexhill www.erasofstyle.com
Little Treasures, High Street, Hastings www.littletreasuresvintage.co.uk
Dynamite Gallery, 1A Jubilee Street, brighton www.dynamitegallery.com
Woowoo Boutique, Market Row, Brixton Market www.facebook.com/WooWooBoutique
To find out more about Lost and Foundry, and to see items for sale or bespoke inspiration, visit www.lostandfoundry.co.uk