For the second half of our last semester of third year, we were set the brief: design a light which embodies your experience, influences, passions and values as a designer.
I knew from the very start that I wanted to design a light that addressed issues of sustainability and I decided that I would try to combine this with a skill I’d wanted to learn for a few years – ceramics.
I was very interested in the social importance of ceramic as a material, especially the period when porcelain was considered “white gold” because the Chinese were the only ones who knew how to make it and through this created a monopoly on its production (BBC – Germany: Memories of a Nation). I wanted to explore the value given to this material and perhaps contrast it with how devalued and fleeting so many of the things we buy in this consumerist society are.
I was initially inspired by this description of Ingo Maurer highlighting his values as non-materialistic and based on deeper, metaphysical ways of fulfilment rather than through the things we own.
“the antimaterialist who makes stuff”
I was also inspired by the work of Linsey Mcintosh, Sooz Gordon, Peter Ananin and Jen Robinson for the V&A Dundee project – Living Room for the City. They made “design your own light” kits and travelled around Dundee running workshops to create community engagement with the V&A project. They also empowered individuals by making them feel proud of themselves through having made something with their own hands.
Something that really struck me about ceramic is how important the craft element is in the process of making it. Ceramic work is all about the slow acquisition of skills through perseverance.
I also explored design activism; a field I’d like to develop in in the future. I tried to come up with ways that I could examine the ideologies embedded in products with my lighting design and this led me to my first concept – casting disposable products in ceramic. I really liked the juxtaposition of something very fleeting made in a very valuable yet also fragile material. I eventually strayed away from this idea as I didn’t feel I was designing a light just an object of which the light element was not important.
I decided to do some research out in Dundee City Centre. Whilst looking at lots of terrible quality plastic items, what struck me was that the main reason mass production devalues products so much is that there are so many identical products.
I began to play with the idea of repeating something many times and the aesthetics that I could produce with this and this is the idea that I chose to move forwards with my design.