Here’s An Octopus for Your Ceiling

An interview with world-renowned chandelier maker and artist extraordinaire, Adam Wallacavage.


What’s your story, Adam? When did you start making art, and what inspired you?

I made a painting for Santa Claus when I was about 4 or 5 years old. I found it later in the attic and was devastated. I know it was my parents who hid it after Santa rejected it, and they only wanted to protect my feelings, but I stayed away from painting and concentrated on building forts.

What does a normal day look like for you? What is your creative process?

I spend the majority of my morning drinking coffee looking at emails that I rarely respond to, then feeding and cleaning up after my 9 pet birds. I have 5 parakeets, 2 Diamond doves, a cockatiel and a Lovebird.

Who are your influences?

I think I’m most influenced by eccentric millionaires who hire craftsmen and artists to realize their visions. Some of the wackiest creations came about this way. I love the “absurd-but-done-well” absurd.

Tell me about the ornate interior of your house. What’s your vision, and where did it all begin?

BLACK Pearl Chandelier

Black Pearl chandelier. Courtesy of Adam Wallacavage.

I was lucky and bought a huge Victorian brownstone on a major street in south Philadelphia back when the houses were really cheap. It needed a ton of work so I just went for it and did what I wanted. I wanted an over-the-top ornate interior, and with the help of the skills I learned through a molding and casting class, and with the help of my mom, I started making molds of things I would find at flea markets and antique stores and would then cast them in plaster and apply them to the walls and ceilings of my house.

It became an obsession and I just kept going with it, especially when I met my friend Kathy Vissar who has a beautiful plaster studio in Philadelphia with hundreds of rubber molds, and I got even further with my visions of over-the-top ornamentation.

You started out as a full-time photographer, and then devoted your energies to making your signature octopus chandeliers. Why the switch?

I discovered a new direction once I started making chandeliers for myself. The original ones were for the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea but I really loved making them and didn’t stop.

Would you say your art mediums influence each other? Does photography “talk” to sculpture?

I like the fact that sculpture can be photographed in ways that 2-dimensional art can not be. I definitely have fun photographing my sculptures, and the whole idea of creating interiors in the first place was all about having backdrops for photos.

What do you believe your genre uniquely adds to the life of a person?

I like that ideas are possible with common sense and confidence. I had no money when I started making things for my house. I was able to create things that seemed impossible to create with little money. I like the idea of proving the possibilities that are there to make what you want by yourself.

If an aspiring artist were to ask you for a piece of advice, what would you tell her or him?

Medusa chandelier. Courtesy of Adam Wallacavage.

Medusa chandelier. Courtesy of Adam Wallacavage.

Never get stuck with one genre. If you need to work somewhere to support your artistic endeavors, don’t let it take over your life, but keep a focus on your art. Don’t expect anything to come quick, but don’t let that discourage you. Learn confidence in every little thing.

Never get stuck with one genre…and keep a focus on your art.

What are you listening to/reading right now?

Within the past few months I’ve probably listened to Thee Oh Sees and Dark Horses the most. I listen to a lot of music, and I go out to see shows as often as possible. I’m lucky to be friends with so many musicians in Philadelphia…and the fact that there is always something going on every night near my home.

And finally, what’s your favorite restaurant in Philadelphia?

Beau Monde is my favorite. I love the food and the people there. I’m not very adventurous when it comes to restaurants so I tend to go where my friends are.

Joseph Cunningham
Joseph is a featured Humane Pursuits columnist. He works as a marketer in West Chester, PA, and writes music, articles, and the occasional short story.

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