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Designer Q&A: Sarah Colson

Winner of the ELLE Decoration Award for Best Lighting Design in 2016, Sarah Colson is a London-based lighting designer who uses unusual materials with the aim to 'make the ordinary extraordinary'.

Colson's colourful five pendant glass cluster chandelier, Cluster 5 Vitro Lux, is exclusive to The Conran Shop and takes centre stage in our spring/summer displays. Its small filament bulbs are housed within soft-hued glass tubes with a larger clear glass bubble, and set off with striking coloured cables. Whether hung independently or in clusters, designs from the Vitro Lux collection play with the beauty of balance.

We spoke to Sarah about her inspiration, her creative process and her unique approach to contemporary lighting design.


Sarah Colson's Cluster 5 Vitro Lux pendants, as seen in The Conran Shop, Chelsea.

Sarah Colson's Cluster 5 Vitro Lux pendants, as seen in The Conran Shop, Chelsea.


How did you start out in design?


I had a very creative upbringing and was always encouraged to entertain myself by whatever means possible.  You could often find me in the garden building strange objects from the foliage, dressed in something from the ‘dressing up box’ and singing at the top of my voice. The older I got, the more I wanted to put my creativity into a practical application.  It was a natural progression to take the BA in Interdisciplinary Textiles in Bristol, as it offered an openness to design.  The course was amazing and it opened my eyes to how imaginative you could be within the context of design.  Having developed this thirst for design, I then went on to the RCA to study Design Products.


What has been the biggest influence on your work?


I think the grounding I got from my BA to explore ideas through drawing is something I always go back to in the studio.  I developed a process for 3D sketching with random objects and this is still a starting point for each collection that I design.


Vitro Lux Sarah Colson

Photography by Anna Batchelor and Lenka Rayn H


What does great design mean to you?


Great design to me is something that is built to last. When I design my products, I always imagine them to become family heirlooms that my clients are investing in.  In years to come, way after I’m gone, I would hope people to find them in antique shops still in mint condition due to the quality of the craftsmanship I chose to make them with.


Talk us through what a typical day for you is like...


Every day is different for me and to be honest I sometimes crave a little continuity.  My time is very much divided into blocks; travel, shows, orders, client meetings and of course, the best bit, designing.  I try and apply as much creativity to each job at hand; otherwise the balance feels a little out.


How did you come up with the Cluster pendant design?  


The cluster is part of the Vitro Lux collection, which was developed from the 3D sketching technique I spoke about earlier.  I started with a series of odd sculptures with forms I found interesting and then made drawings based on that.  I took them to my glass blower and we spent about 3 days in the studio making samples in glass  I put colourways together and thought about how I could best achieve elegant simple forms with textured cables. The final result was the Vitro Lux collection.


Vitro Lux Sarah Colson 5 Cluster Lamp

Photography by Anna Batchelor and Lenka Rayn H


Vitro Lux Sarah Colson 5 Cluster

Photography by Anna Batchelor and Lenka Rayn H


 What attracted you to work with Borosilicate glass for your products?


Borosilicate glass offers something completely different to pot glass.  It is lightweight, has an even wall thickness and it’s super strong. It’s traditionally used for making test tubes and what not for laboratories.

In recent years, they have started to produce the glass in a variety of colours.  From what I understand this is because of an Indi movement in the US where people are setting up glass labs in their garages.

The colour ranges are limited, but really beautiful and quite unique in the way they hold light.  This is what compelled me to work with Borosilicate.


 Are there any designers that inspire you?


In lighting, I am really loving what Michael Anastassiades is doing.  He’s got such a lovely sense of balance and scale; and the proportions he plays with always draw me in. I spend a lot of time hanging out with designers, as most of us studied together at the RCA.  In their own unique way they all inspire me;  Robert Small, Pia Wustenberg, Silo Studio, Ariane Prin, SmithMathias, Pippa Murry, Thorunn Arnadottir, Marina Dragomirova…


Describe your studio in three words...


Eclectic, active and full.


Vitro Lux Sarah Colson

Photography by Anna Batchelor and Lenka Rayn H


Sarah Colson’s Vitro Lux 5 Cluster pendant light is exclusive to The Conran Shop, and available for purchase both online and in-store.