Lighting Commentary

Different Materials

I read recently that nature artist and designer, Paul Cocksedge created a new piece of art, now on view inside Liverpool Cathedral. As is the case with so much of his work, it is based on natural materials and in this instance, provides a commentary on the world’s fossil fuel dependence. Cocksedge has arranged 2000 pieces of coal, weighing a half-ton, into a sphere. The amount of coal used is apparently equal to the amount needed to keep a 200W light bulb illuminated for a year.

After looking at the images, I realized it created the illusion of a chandelier. He has arranged downlights around the piece to reflect the luminous surface of the type of coal he used, anthracite. This look is every bit as engaging as crystal and gold.

This got me thinking. Why do luminaire manufacturers stay with the same materials? Brass, glass, steel, aluminum and some resins are pretty much the pallet from which they work. Occasionally, we see alabaster being used. Mica has had a place in mission style lanterns. Corten® steel is occasionally employed. Lead crystal and now optical crystal have gone in and out of fashion. The same can be said for wood. Could we think farther outside of the material box?

Anthracite really does deliver a beautiful look. Where could we unearth the next material that provides the same unexpected result? Would formed, thin wall concrete allow for simple shapes to be created? I’ve just read about a new translucent concrete used for lighted park benches. Is there wider application?

A couple of years ago, dichromatic glass became popular with artists and craftspeople. You couldn’t toss a hammer in a summer arts fair without hitting a booth employing this material. I wonder why it did not translate to lighting. Just prior to that, the same could be said of hematite. Its lustrous black finish would probably work today as we enjoy continued use of matte black in so much home fashion.

I remember an early trip to the Philippines where artisans were fabricating fossil stone (Mactan) into lamp parts. It was exciting to see something new being tried. It had a nice run for five or six years. Capiz Shells, made from the windowpane oyster, likewise could be found “everywhere” for almost a decade.

I’m waiting for the next new material. What could it be? When will it arrive? How will it get here? If you’re trying to determine “what’s next” like me, look to artists and artisans, find out what they are creating and how they are making new things. Understand the medium they use. Seek out those that are striking a new path.

Perhaps this is the reason societies have artists. They are trained to look at thing differently. That different outlook can lead to materials that will find their way into every-day products…and perhaps, lighting.

2 replies on “Different Materials”

I read this post to my hubby who is a multimedia artist. He was both impressed & flattered by your comments. It’s true artists do think out of the box and mentioned even things like hockey sticks, originally made from wood, then aluminum, then graphite and now different forms of graphite, all based on the client’s needs. Perhaps the same will happen with lighting.

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