Apart from the tiny star and a few bits of glitter sparkling in the car park, you’d never know what went on in this residential neighbourhood of Saint-Maur-des-Fossés. It’s a closely guarded secret, but with two months to go before the Holidays, we sneaked into these workshops in Paris’ eastern suburbs, where every year Galeries Lafayette make their Christmas decorations.
Through the sturdy door, we are greeted by the mingling aromas of resin and sawdust, while on the walls, tools are lined up like Christmas decorations. The floor is littered with scraps of wood, bits of tape, a deflated balloon , and glitter...
The workshop is a hive of activity. Some are wearing overalls, others in jeans; but all of them are stained with paint and varnish. It’s cold under the vast glass roof, but the light is dazzling. Everyone is busy: someone is varnishing a window, someone else sanding a toffee apple or making candy floss. A hammer provides the beat. A saw and a sheet of sandpaper provide the harmony.
The strange dance of the Christmas crafters
“Careful you don’t get any of that paint on my white geese!”. Between the big wheel and a pile of metallic balloons, we witness the strange dance of the Christmas crafters. They come from the School of Fine Art or the Ecole Boulle, and are specialists in metalwork or fabrics. They sand, paint, and clothe, and they’re all multi-talented. Here there are no job titles or hierarchies. Workstations are set up wherever there’s space. Teams form and disband according to what’s needed and who’s available.
Red toffee apple
In a decor that is still white, colour arrives in splashes. We meet Mathilde who, five minutes ago, was rolling candy flosses, and is now busy painting the foot of an elephant that’s not quite ready for the parade. Laura is making a fanciful concoction that, with a wave of a magic wand, turns into a red toffee apple. Angela, meanwhile, has put down the chroming gun and is wrapping balloons. There’s blues, reds, and silver. They are all being made for the huge Christmas tree that will be erected under the famous glass roof of Galeries Lafayette Haussmann in Paris.
All of a sudden, in silence, the roundabout starts turning... Breaktime is coming. Not too long, though, as the big wheel is waiting its turn in make-up. Before leaving, we get a once-over with some compressed air, that gets the dust and glitter out of our hair and clothes. And here we are back in the car park. Was it all a dream? To find out, we’ll head to 40 boulevard Haussmann as soon as the Christmas season starts.