Lending a fresh and dynamic approach to contemporary design, London-based designer Samuel Wilkinson has created the Domino Lighting Collection and the Flo Table Lamp, designed exclusively for The Conran Shop.
Launching at The Conran Shop during London Design Festival 2018, we spoke to Samuel Wilkinson to learn a little more about the inspiration behind the designs, the process of creating them and the challenges he faced on the quest to achieve balance in each piece.
What would you say are the main challenges when designing lighting?
The process of creating a new lighting project is very similar to the way I create any other product or piece of furniture. To properly get into a project I need to find a unique angle or detail. Often this can start from an idea for a detail, or a way to manipulate a manufacturing process.
Lighting has the extra benefit of being able to have two states, on and off. This is obvious, but it gives more room to play with each state, while also playing with the idea of a changing state.
What characteristics make a lighting piece successful?
I never really know when a piece is truly successful as the term success can mean many things - to me it is much more than just commercial success. Projects that I find really successful find the right balance between being instantly relatable or understandable, and maintaining a level of interest over time. The best design, in my opinion, is one that develops more and more each day, as it should be a pleasure to use.
What does a day in your studio typically entail?
I arrive around 9.30am then write and respond to emails for an hour or two. After that, the day can vary depending on what project needs more attention. We run a number of projects simultaneously and I prefer that we spend time on a project, then leave it alone for a while to let ferment little, coming back to it to improve it when the time comes. Currently we’re working on the mechanism for a folding chair, as well as creating colourways for a 3D knit project and planning out a new public square, so it’s nice and varied.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the stories behind creating the Domino Collection and Flo Table Lamp?
I enjoy working with glass and once you understand the parameters of what it can and can’t do, you understand where you can try to manipulate the typical processes to search for that differentiation.
The Flo Lamp’s signature detail is an inverted collar of glass that fixes the glass globe to the base and appears to flow up and out of the centre. This is not so easy to achieve as the pieces are all hand-blown and the glassblower has to inflate the glass by blowing around a corner within the mould, so it’s quite difficult to get consistency.
Domino on the other hand is more of graphic play, based on the idea of the bulb coming out of the side of the marble volume rather than typically at the end. We wanted to make them look like an integrated lamp at first glance, not a bulb holder, so the holders had to be set quite deep into the marble. Again, this is quite a technical challenge as graphically they would not work if the cylinders were any bigger, so this took a lot of the development time. Once the technical application was working well we could then devise four different versions, one table and three pendants that sit well together as a family but each have their own personality.
You are renowned for having a fresh, dynamic approach to your work. What’s your favourite part of the design process?
The most exciting part is that moment when something makes sense and it all comes together. Often ideas don’t work out, but it’s the search that is enjoyable.
The Flo Table Lamp references its own creation process through form. How important do you think an understanding of manufacturing process is to a designer?
For me this is the starting point for any design. It’s one of the areas that I find the most interesting, as you have to know how easy it is to make before proposing it to client. Then, if it’s going to be extremely challenging, you already know your manufacturing battles and can fight to keep the integrity of the original idea – it requires the client to be fully on-board with the project.
What would you say is your favourite material to work with, and why?
I don’t have a favourite as each material has its own pleasures and challenges, but it’s difficult to get tired of rich, beautiful, honest materials like wood, glass and stone as each piece is unique and they age so very well.
Do you have a favourite classic design, or a designer you’ve always admired?
Castiglioni. His work is ubiquitous, functional, playful, technical and more.
Unfortunately London Design Festival 2018 is now over. However, you can find out more about The Conran Shop's events and LDF19 activities here.