There are those of us who delight in Christmas (snow! gifts! yay!) and those who are the proverbial Grinch (snow. gifts. bleuch). But few and far between are those who change from one extreme to the other. For the most part, it’s people who once loved Christmas suddenly discovering they have to roast a turkey for 12 in return for a scented candle/soap-on-a-rope. But there are an odd few who, while they previously detested the superficiality of the seasonal celebrations, now revel in holiday cheer. Yiannis Lazarou is one. And it’s a passion for maths that changed his mind…
Relax. This is nothing to do with complicated equations. This is more about practical mathematics and the application thereof, as it relates – in the main – to Christmas trees! Because this 40-year-old teacher has spent the last four years building a business based on pure maths, geometry and Christmas.
Working under the name Möbelius, Yannis has turned his construction hobby into a much sought after, highly respected part-time business. And while it began with tables and light fixtures, what it’s become over the last few years is a repository of Christmas design for the discerning. Wooden trees, intricate ornaments, and contemporary decorations are the mainstay of Yiannis’ business – an undertaking which picks up as winter approaches and peaks in the first week of December.
“Because I’m working in my free time, and people seem to love my Christmas trees and decorations, there’s a real rush on at this time of year: tight deadlines, a lot of work and demands. This week,” he revealed with a smile a couple of weeks ago, “is my hell week – everyone wants their decorations by the end of it, so I’m worked off my feet!” And, while things do slow down closer to Christmas, Yannis spends a few hectic weeks frantically creating wondrously unique decorations for “friends, family, restaurants, cafes and shops.”
Working with wood, polyurethane, concrete and a myriad of other materials, this hobbyist is turning the most mundane items into fantastical festive creations: towering contemporary Christmas trees (with a host of children’s toys secreted among the branches!); intricately carved snowflakes on bare bulbs; glittering LED-lit cork ornaments; and charming festive montages blanketed in snow.
“Being a mathematician, having a great perception of dimension and space in order to visualise something and then make it really helps,” says Yannis, admitting that practical demonstrations often play a part in his lessons. “Tomorrow I’ll be teaching limits,” he reveals, “by dropping the temperature of my coffee to room level and studying the resultant curve. Not only is it a great way to get my Nescafe into the classroom,” he laughs, “it’s also a practical demonstration. And like everything I create for Möbelius, there’s always that practical element; so when I’m making something – be it a Christmas tree, a dining table or decking – I’m always using space, dimensions and calculations to create something eminently practical. I wouldn’t, for instance, paint a picture to fill a space on the wall. But a lampshade, a table for the garden, even a Christmas tree – these things are necessary, they can be used, they’re practical. That’s my keyword, and it’s how I started really…”
Beginning four years ago with a dining table – “I moved to a new house and needed a really large dining table but everything cost upwards of €3,000. I knew I could easily create what I wanted for far less, so I did!” – Yannis soon found friends and family asking him to put his skills to use in their houses. “I made about four or five tables for friends for about half the cost of what you would pay in a shop, and then started exploring other parts of the house…”
As Möbelius grew, Yannis expanded his creative repertoire – “Pinterest is my go-to for up-to-the-minute ideas, though I often source concepts from global spaces and places I’ve visited” – learning to perfect his finishes and buying better tools. But it wasn’t until he hosted a dinner party that the Christmas spirit – which would take his hobby to the next level – struck.
“Five years ago I didn’t decorate for Christmas. I found the whole idea very superficial; I disliked the season. The most I would do is throw some lights on the table. But then in 2012 I invited a few friends over and, knowing my practical approach to decor, they said they were really excited about seeing what I’d come up with for Christmas!” This, Yannis explains, was his motivation. But, “being a creative guy, I couldn’t take the easy solution. I didn’t want to just buy a plastic tree and throw some stuff on it – I needed something original and unique, a conversation piece. So I did a lot of research – and started off by making a wooden tree.”
While this very first Christmas tree – which took Yannis four days of intensive work – sparked the mathematician’s seasonal love affair, it was the commissions it brought that helped to cement the deal. “People seemed to like the tree so much I quickly ended up making a number of others for large houses and shops.” To date, he’s created over 50 of his trademark wooden trees – “even those who want a traditional tree are intrigued, especially by the toys which are incorporated into the design!” – and has diversified into everything Christmas… A season he has grown to truly appreciate.
“Christmas has become very important to me now. Yes, I get a lot of business around this time, but I certainly don’t do this for profit. Making Christmas trees and Christmas decorations has become something I love, and allows me to create unique pieces. So I’ve come to realise it’s a season of happy change that, if we’re creative, means we don’t have to spend much for that terrific mood boost. And that’s something I think we all need in our lives. I guess,” he concludes, with a wry smile, “I’ve somehow become The Christmas Man!”
For more information on Möbelius, visit the Facebook page ‘Möbelius’