Mid-century inspired lighting by Bert Frank
One of the things I love most about blogging here at Design Hunter is that I sometimes have the privilege of being able to share new design work before it's been featured elsewhere. Robbie Llewellyn of Bert Frank recently got in touch to introduce their newly launched mid-century inspired lighting range. Designed in opposition to today's throwaway culture and 'built to last' the range is manufactured in the UK and available in a range of different custom colours and finishes.
Here's what Robbie had to tell me about the collection...
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Can you tell us a little about your background and key design influences?
I have worked in the lighting industry for about 10 years now, mainly designing bespoke lights but initially working for a lighting company that sold a mixture of antiques and their own range. This was a fantastic education for me as the owner had amazing knowledge and taste. I was introduced to and able to evaluate the best examples of lighting from its very beginning up to the modern day.
This is where I started to develop a style and aesthetic of my own that seemed to be made up of elements from all these different influences I was getting. Initially it was the geometric Deco style that grabbed my attention but when I discovered some of the great mid-century lighting designs I was hooked. This has been added to and tweaked over the years and the designs that I am currently producing are a result of that.
You've mentioned that one intention is to design objects that can potentially outlive their owners. Which items do you own yourself that you treasure and which hopefully fit that ideal?
I think this desire came from seeing so many amazing antique lights as mentioned above and really appreciating that something designed and manufactured well could still be appreciated and used 100 years later. I think that this is so rare today and I don’t see why it should be.
As for items I own, one springs to mind but I’m not sure your readers will be very interested. It is a Hardy fly fishing reel and it epitomises what I am trying to achieve, its beauty is in its details and engineering and you still see fishermen in the river using 50 year old versions today.
Material choices are obviously very important in the consideration of your designs, do you associate certain materials (e.g. metals) with particular decades, and if so which come to mind… and why?
Metals definitely have genre associations for me although they do seem to change from time to time. Chrome for example will always have a Deco feel for me and copper screams Arts and Crafts. I think this is probably because some of my favourite pieces from these periods are in these materials. Brass is a material and a finish that I currently enjoy above all others which is very strange for me because I spent a very long time feeling that it had a very stuffy and twee Victorian property and feel. Again I think that the mid-century designs are the thing that influenced my change in taste here.
Do you build many prototypes to get to the final solution, or is it a straightforward journey of development from a clear initial idea?
I do build quite a few prototypes actually, but it is intentional. I find that even though I do the majority of the design on paper and CAD there are a few things that just need to seen and touched in the flesh. Reflections on metals, shadows, light distribution/effects and finishes can be planned but really need to be seen and tested. I also find that the process of building prototypes often offers up ideas and even problems that end up in solutions better than my original concept. It is a part of the design process that I value and enjoy very much and I am very lucky that our in house manufacturing expertise is so exceptional.
How important to you is it to have your lights manufactured in the UK, and is that an easy thing to achieve these days?
It is crucial and to be honest it is an absolute requirement for us, not only out of choice but also from a control and quality point of view. I genuinely believe that we still have some of the most highly skilled craftsmen and engineers in this country, especially when it comes to high end luxury items in which this country has such a great history. We don’t make our products in huge quantities and the quality of production is so crucial for our designs that we would not consider looking overseas while we still have the skills in the UK. So I think it is easy at the moment but there is a very real danger that we will lose these skills forever as they are not being passed on as manufacturing moves abroad.
Are you able to tell us what you are working on next?
We have another 3 ranges to release in the coming months so we are currently working on the final design and production details for those. The Revolve table lamp is one of our new lines and I’m really struggling to narrow down the colours we are going to release it in, it just seems to work so well in so many variations. Although it will be available in any colour under the sun as a special it’s not practical for us to offer this as a stock option so a tough decision must be made.
Once we have released these and they are fully in production it’s back to the drawing board, I fancy doing something really big next.
Finally, who are your lighting design heroes, and are there any current designers that you particularly admire?
Lighting heroes have to be people like Poul Henningsen and Arne Jacobsen, their original designs are still being produced today and are still some of the best selling lights on the market (and they always look so dapper in their old photos). As for current designers I think that Michael Anastassiades produces interesting work over and over again and I always look forward to see what he will come up with next.