Information, Technical

Specials: if I want my light twice as big, will it cost twice as much?

surface of a sphere

No. It will cost more than double. Why?

1.        The increase in the quantity of the raw materials used will be more than double.

Suppose your light is basically a sphere, like these Hellbobs from Windfallused in this interior designed by René Dekker:

Windfall Hellbob chandeliers René Dekker

The size would be given by the diameter -- you'd say, "I'd like one 90cm in diameter". But the quantity of materials used -- the crystal components and the metal, in this case -- is determined not by the diameter but by the area of the surface of the sphere. If you double the diameter, you more than double the surface area of the sphere.

At school, you learnt that the surface area of a sphere is given by the formula 4πr². The radius is half the diameter, so doubling the diameter doubles the radius.

But there are those other factors in the formula. So, for example, if the radius is 50, the surface area is 31,429 (50 x 50 x 22 ÷ 7 x 4). But double the radius to 100, the surface area becomes 125,714 (100 x 100 x 22 ÷ 7 x 4), which is not double, but four times the original area.

2.        The unit cost of the raw materials and components will be higher

It takes on average two years for a lighting maker to bring an original concept to market. Many processes are taking place during this time, that are concerned not just with its design, packaging and pricing, but also with what it will be made from, which subcontractors will be used, and how it will meet the relevant regulations (the main one of which -- IEC60598 -- is 192 pages long in its English version).

The prices of raw materials and sub-assemblies of the standard items are therefore tightly controlled. But a special undermines all this work.

The larger the stock order is of, say, crystals of a particular type, the cheaper they will be. But, if the maker has to buy in a small quantity of something they don't stock, the unit cost will be higher.

Some items -- for example, fabric covers for cables  -- can only be bought in minimum lengths, which could be a kilometre. So, if only 1m is required for your special, they still have to buy 100m.

3.        You can't expect people to work for nothing

Once a catalogue item is launched, pretty much everything has been worked out. Issues will come up, of course, but there will be standard computerized systems controlling the stock, subassemblies and manufacturing. Packaging is designed and sitting on shelves. The light meets all the regulatory requirements.

As soon as we ask for something different, however, a miniature version of all the work done for the catalogue item has to be done again. The implications of the modifications have to be identified and designed around. Greater weight may mean that the suspension components have to be changed and other modifications made so that the tilt tests are passed. Once quantities have been calculated, suppliers and subcontractors have to be negotiated with, specifically, and only, for the special.

The modified version has also to meet all the regulations.

Only highly skilled people can take care of all these things.

And they are not sitting around doing nothing, awaiting our email. They may have other work to finish before they can look at our special. So might the subcontractors.

Then, making the special has to be scheduled through production. Not only has a window to be found for it, but it will take longer than a standard item and may need to be done by the most senior operatives. They will have to wait until the special parts have been delivered and tested.

So... It will cost more than twice as much. And you will have to wait for the experts to design and cost your special. It will also take longer to make.


Always specify a standard item if you want to keep the cost down and if you want a price quickly!

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Willowlamp at Art Basel

Willowlamp MANDALA No2B-1000 Black Diamond What is art?

I was set this essay title at school in the philosophy class, the term we studied æsthetics. I have continued to ask the question while studying literature and then history of art at university, whilst working at the Arts Council dispensing public money into the arts, and now as we work with lighting.

There is no one answer, but there are many.

For example, it would appear that when you put a light in a sculpture, it is no longer a work of art: it becomes a light and the price you have to pay for it drops by 90%.

On the other hand, if you show a light in an art gallery, it becomes a work of art (and the price goes back up!). For example, the lights at the Hayward's Gallery's Light Show. Or lights from people like Johanna Grawunder  and Studio Drift at the Carpenters Workshop Gallery.

Which means that Adam Hoets (of  Willowlamp) is now producing works of art, because his Black Diamond will be shown at Art Basel (13-16 June).

At the head of this post you can see a Black Diamond from below. Here are two more angles:

Willowlamp MANDALA No2B-1000 Black Diamond - 4

Willowlamp MANDALA No2B-1000 Black Diamond2 -1

More than once when we have shown pictures of Adam's work to clients, they have asked us to send them a straightforward picture taken with a phone, because they assume that the real thing cannot look as amazing as the images -- that the images must have been doctored. But they haven't -- they do!

Have a look at this Black Diamond 1 -- it really does look like this:

Willowlamp MANDALA No2-1000 Black Diamond -4 chandelier

Willowlamp MANDALA No2-1000 Black Diamond -1 chandelier

And just look what happens when Hoets broadens his colour palette from the the black and white of the Black Diamonds! This is a Mandala:

Willowlamp MANDALA No1-1000-13 chandelier

Willowlamp MANDALA No1-1000-4 chandelier

Willowlamp MANDALA No1-1000-2 chandelier

And the best thing is that you can have stunning wow factor pieces like this for your own project -- and they are priced as Lights, rather than as Works of Art!

Here is a custom piece in the same idiom as Mandala:

willowlamp custom liwa circular geometrical extruded chandelier

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A truly spectacular oval chandelier from Glass and Glass!

Glass and Glass custom oval Venetian chandelier mm.3.500x2.000x3.000h. This chandelier is oval. Oval chandeliers of any design are difficult to do, with complex visual problems to overcome if they are to look right from all angles. And complex mechanical problems to overcome if they are to hang straight. Fortunately, a Venetian chandelier like this one is suspended from a single point: if the piece requires several supports, it gets even more difficult.

Our hearts therefore sink when we are asked for oval chandeliers, so -- the lesson for today -- only think about specifying one when you really, really want one!

Fortunately,  we have several makers who can be relied upon to understand the issues and overcome them.

For example, Glass and Glass, who made the the one above. It is not just oval, it is HUGE!!! 3500mm x 2000mm by 3000mm high. Its size is easier to appreciate when you see it with people beside it:

Glass and Glass oval chandelier during inspection

Before being packed for shipment, chandeliers are always fully assembled and tested. A practical issue that we have to consider, if the chandelier is really big, is to work with a factory that has a space large enough to accommodate it.

Fortunately, Glass and Glass may use the finest centuries-old Venetian glass techniques but they have a modern building that is big enough for this one.

Glass and Glass custom large oval chandelier during testing

As always it is not enough that a lighting supplier can make what you want.

There are other issues that are just as important, so we are pleased to be able to report that Glass and Glass is a delight to work with: a collection of standard items that is flexible and easy to understand; prompt, considered responses to requests for custom items; great care taken over practical issues like crating -- and very good prices!

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Milan 2013: Oluce's commitment to customizing -- their "bespoke tailoring".

Oluce bespoke tailoring 08 When something is done well, it looks very easy. Many Italian lighting companies are reacting to the current economic climate, and the reduction of lighting retailers in Italy, by deciding to be more open to contract work. But many of them do not know how to set about doing it.

Oluce came to the same conclusion, but they know exactly how to do it! So, what are they doing?

First, they are making it absolutely clear that they really are interested in making special versions of their lights. They have branded the offer "bespoke tailoring" because this evokes both what they will be doing -- custom pieces, not just "off the peg" -- but also the quality standards of the best tailors. You can read their announcement of the service here.

Then, they created a special area of their stand for the "bespoke tailoring" offer. I've selected the picture at the top of this post because it includes Francesco Rota's fine Canopy pendant light of 2009 . It is really a shot of a table in this special area.

But it did not only have a proper table and chairs (essential though these are). Nor did they just have Coupé 3321s in very unusual colours and metal finishes. They had also  laid out the cloths, finishes and materials you could choose from, as your tailor does his cloths. I counted fourteen paint colours, ten metal finishes, fifty six anodizations, plus marbles, stones...

This was a display set into a wall:

Oluce bespoke tailoring wall display

And here, samples are under glass set into a large table:

Oluce bespoke tailoring table display

Oluce bespoke tailoring display at Euroluce


Oluce bespoke tailoring fabrics

plus leathers:

Oluce bespoke tailoring customization service fabrics

and other materials:

Oluce bespoke tailoring specials

So, not only is Oluce making it clear that they welcome requests for specials, they are also making it as easy as possible for the specifier to find the exact colour, finish and material that they would like. They can put the samples together to see if a paint really does work with a particular metal finish.

Well, they could do these things in the area of the stand during Euroluce that was dedicated to "bespoke tailoring", but that show is now over. What will be particularly interesting to Cameron Peters Fine Lighting, as the only professional service supporting interior designers when they specify lighting, is how this will work day-to-day, in practice, in London.

So their solution is simple. Obvious, maybe. But no other lighting maker has approached customization this way before. Well done, Oluce.

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Makers of custom lights can also make other things for you too!

  Fabbian Wing installation for Hong Kong airport

Have you ever stopped to think how many materials lights are made out of? Or about the skills of those manufacturers who can design and make unique objects, then light them, meeting technical regulations? Or how big some fittings are, that can only exist thanks to advanced mechanical and engineering abilities?

Now you have, I hope!

So now you can reflect on other things that they could make for you. This picture is of the reception area at 45 Park Lane.

Dernier & Hamlyn 45 Park Lane custom installation

You can see on the left a major art déco feature. Once it had been designed, nobody knew who could make it, until they thought of the great lighting experts, Dernier & Hamlyn.

We have been reminded of this by the latest press release from Fabbian. It features The Wing, designed by Foster + Partners for Hong Kong airport:

Fabbian Wing installation for Hong Kong airport 3

It is six metres long, 3.2 metres high, and weighs over eight tons. It is made up of twenty ultra-clear glass blades, all shaped differently. They are decorated with engravings that are illuminated by LEDs hidden in the base.

Practical issues that had to be overcome included dealing with this very concentrated weight, given that the airport floor had limited strength. So a special base had to be designed that also houses the light sources -- that also had to be easy to transport and service, whilst being beautiful to look at!

Fabbian Wing installation for Hong Kong airport 2

Now, The Wing is lit, but so would almost any major installation be. The point is that the technical skills to make it possible are exceptional, and the next time they are applied, it will be to something completely different -- maybe to something that you've had in mind for a long time; you now have the client and the budget, but you don't know who can turn your idea into three dimensional reality....

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