04 May More than meets the eye . . . The French Cloche Pendant Light
The cloche pendant light brings a classicism and elegance to any room. It exquisitely combines function (lighting) with beauty and ambience. However, there is more to these beautiful pieces than meets the eye.
The cloche pendant lights you see in the image above started their life with an entirely different purpose – to cover melon crops in the fields of the French countryside in order to protect them from frost and snow. Amazing, yes?
Translated from French, the word cloche means ‘bell’, and so these simple glass structures, because of their distinctive bell shape, were called cloches.
Cloching – of a form – has an ancient history, with glass structures being used as far back as Roman time to protect crops from the elements and to encourage their growth. As with many things, the French soon took this simple technique and elevated it to something resembling an art form, perfecting crop raising using cloches.
Initially French cloches were simple, though large, glass bell jars, blown by Italian glassmakers. By 1600, Olivier de Serres (translated: Olivier of the greenhouses), renowned agronomist and author of ‘the’ guide to agriculture of the age, was using them to grow and protect melons.
This first all-glass iteration, however, was expensive to make and fragile. A new ‘improved’ version, produced in England, came along in 1677. This version no longer had the classic bell shape, and was made from pieces of glass, often from old window panes, set in lead. Though more decorative, they still served a purely functional purpose.
Despite the changes in design, the traditional bell jar cloche remained the preferred form in many places. By the 19th century, French market gardeners were predominately using bell jar cloches but made of a heavier glass than previously. It has been said that, at the height of market gardens in the 19th century, these beautiful glass jars covered the fields outside of Paris as far as the eye could see!
Modern reproductions of these glass cloches are available for gardeners today, but somehow they don’t have the magnificence of the 19th century (or earlier) pieces. It is no wonder that structures of such beauty and history have found their way into homes as decorative pieces. When used to make pendant lights these beautifully decorative pieces have become, through some clever engineering, highly functional as well.
For my clients, I mainly source cloches from an antique dealer, however they can sometimes be obtained from specialist retailers like Parterre in Woollahra (http://www.parterre.com.au/) and The Country Trader in Waterloo (http://www.thecountrytrader.com.au/).