Thursday, August 15, 2019

Decorative Artist to Watch: Marie Christophe

I’m delighted this week to introduce Marie Christophe, a French designer who crafts chic and charming and functional sculptures from steel wire. She’s a favorite of my friend, designer Jean-Louis Deniot and has attracted a loyal following among the luxury fashion houses of Paris.

Come with me this week to meet Marie Christophe and see how her witty and charming and artful handcrafted and custom-made wire sculptures, often in classical forms, are persuading her followers to lighten up.

I first discovered the light-hearted works by Marie Christophe in the Left Bank studio of Jean-Louis Deniot. He has placed her crystal and gem-studded wire chandeliers in his international residences. And quietly, working in the French countryside, she has attracted the attention of leading fashion houses in Paris.

“Marie Christophe makes wonderful, whimsical works in wire. It’s such an ordinary and practical and unexpected material to turn into something so fantastically beautiful,” said her agent, New Mexico-based Lisa Fontanarosa. “Her Cinderella-at-the-ball chandeliers and her frisky animal sculpture are delightful to encounter.”

Christophe often punctuates her sculptures and imagery with glass beads, crystals, faux coral, shells, and ceramic pieces.

Working in strong iron wire, Christophe, who lives on a farm in South-west France, crafts functional chandeliers, along with decorative insects, airy birdcages, birds, chickens, crocodiles, angels, and other diaphanous creations.

Bees and elephants and butterflies shimmer with crystals. Some large-scale sculptures are light and transparent, as ephemeral as a sketch.

Marie Christophe’s colossal new chandelier, created for Guerlain’s new boutique Cours des Senteurs (Court of Scents) in Versailles, is a confection in gold and clear crystal. The LED chandelier is 7’ H x 4 ‘ in diameter and made with antique gold crystal, sourced from local flea markets, and also embedded with gold paper. 

“Marie has an eye for turning the functional into the extraordinary and every piece she creates is a fairytale filled with wonder,” said Fontanarosa,  who has represented Christophe for two decades. “The wire is the perfect substance for her imagination. She usually works very spontaneously, even skipping the sketching and moving straight onto engagement with the wire. She is able to coax movement from a length of wire, and she convinces it to twist and curl into something gloriously unexpected.”

Fontanarosa observed that the sculptures’ very ‘nothingness’ and near invisibility are what makes them charming and humorous and very admired by French and American designers.

About Marie Christophe

She attributes her interest in design and art to her father, an architect with a passion for Japanese gardens and African art.

Marie says that ‘a good design is for me to get the right balance between style and substance, so that the object organically finds its inherent function, be it aesthetic or utilitarian.’

She considers herself a creative artisan rather than a designer.

Lisa Fontanarosa said she admires the singular beauty of an artist’s touch and especially loves the spontaneity of Christophe’s work.

“I always look for the unexpected, and sometimes what’s not there catches my attention. When I discovered Marie Christophe, it was love at first light,” said Fontanarosa.  “I was stunned by the elegance of her curves, the cleanness of her lines. Marie’s delicate, airy silhouettes fit perfectly in a large loft space, country kitchen, contemporary living room.”

Lisa discovered Christophe in 1999. She was strolling on the Left Bank in Paris when she saw one of Marie’s chandeliers.

“It was suspended from the ceiling of En Attendant les Barbares, 35 rue de Grenelle,” said Lisa. “My heart skipped a beat. I inquired who the artist was and contacted her immediately. I knew I had to share her whimsical wire works with the world. She was the first artist I signed to my design agency, so she and I really started together. I continue to look for others like Marie who create powerful pieces that mesmerize me.”

Marie Christophe’s Bio

She attended the prestigious graphic design and interior architecture school Penninghen in Paris. She studied drawing and sculpture and decided to blend the two disciplines in scribble-like wire objects that grew more complex over time. Working in wire followed naturally from Christophe’s progression through art school.

She immediately set herself up to work simply with wire, as she likes its transparency.

Marie Christophe was discovered by Hermes’ Jean-Louis Dumas at a group exhibition in 1996. Her collaboration began with Hermes when she made a horse sculptures in 1997.

Her work has been showcased by France’s greatest luxury houses-- Dior, Cartier, Roger Vivier, Baccarat, and Guerlain as well as hotels, spas and private home throughout the world. 

Marie Christophe lives with her husband, an interior designer, and two children in a remote historic corner of France called le Gers, home to large farms, vast fields of wheat. It’s west of Toulouse and north of the Pyrénées, and notoriously inaccessible (especially by fast train).

In the heat of summer, and beneath the intense July sun, the fields of Gers wheat smell like baking bread. It’s a heavenly part of France. Perfect for this artist to work at her craft undisturbed.

She admits, however, that her work often brings her to Paris and she and her husband keep a studio for their visits. She continues to work closely with Jean-Louis Deniot and other designers, and often work for Hermes and other fashion houses.

Marie Christophe began developing artistic and functional wireworks and likes working with wire because it is very easy, clean and light to work with. She twists her sculptural bespoke commissions one by one, with a simply a ball of wire, her grip and pliers.

Colored ceramics and antique beads and handblown crystals are added to heighten the piece’s visual with and charm. Her pliable wire menagerie — dogs, elephants, birds, octopuses, owls, flamingoes and alligators find homes around the globe. 

Above, Marie Christophe made a special chandelier for the bedroom of Jean-Louis Deniot in Los Angeles.

Deniot, has been a devoted collector of Marie Christophe’s work, including decorative garden animals, chandeliers and table lamps.

His firm has commissioned bold and witty sculptures, whimsical decor, and a series of custom chandeliers for his international clients and also his own residences.

For the airy bedroom of his new residence in Los Angeles, Marie Christophe made a custom chandelier in his favorite pale golden hue. It feels both classical and modern, and adds a light and witty note hovering above his bed. The custom chandelier has four lights and is shown in black, white and honey gold ceramics.


Lisa Fontanarosa
Lisa Fontanarosa Collection

Marie Christophe
Tél. +33 6 03 22 77 48

Marie Christophe also works closely with the Studio of Jean-Louis Deniot in Paris:

Photos courtesy of Marie Christophe and Lisa Fontanarosa.

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