In the fourth and final instalment of our “So You Want My Job” series, we talk to British lighting designer, Ian Cameron. Based in Primrose Hill, Ian’s modern designs give traditional light fixtures an innovative and contemporary twist.
1. Did you always want to be a lighting designer?
Um, not really. My whole life I’ve always been designing. When I was a child I was like a mad inventor, always pulling apart my toys, rebuilding them, installing led lights in them, giving toy soldiers robotic arms and whatnot. It wasn’t until I got older I started designing more seriously – I would draw anything – cars, houses, furniture – but toward the end of my studies I realised there was something inherently different about the connection we have with lighting, as opposed to say our connection with cars and furniture and whatever, and that is that we don’t physically interact with it, beautiful lighting is just to be appreciated.
2. What path did you take to get to your role?
It’s going to sound like a cliché, but that path involved a lot of hard work and perseverance. I studied design at university and then went on to work for a few companies, but I always wanted to make my own things and put my own name to them. For years I ran this coffee stall outside the Tube station at Swiss Cottage, I would start at 7am and finish at 4pm and after work, no matter how tired I was, I would go straight to designing lights. That meant researching, sourcing materials, sketching, putting pieces together, installing prototypes all over my apartment, throwing tantrums, sitting on my sofa or standing in the hallway staring at them for hours, and just re-working everything until I felt it was perfect. I haven’t had a lot of sleep over the past few years.
3. What does your typical day look like?
A typical day for me can vary. If we have a lot of orders then it’s an early start in the studio, cutting materials, lacquering wood, polishing brass, fitting all the pieces together, plus I do a lot of the deliveries and installations myself. I guess the most fun days are when I’m designing a new piece. I take inspiration from everywhere – architecture, technology, objects – I might take a walk around London, or go to an art gallery, you know, feed my mind and then once I’ve sketched something I’m happy with, I get to making it. I love making prototypes, it gives me a real thrill.
4. What is the most fulfilling aspect of your job?
I think most designers and creative people in general find fulfilment in a finished product that’s appreciated. I love to see my lights hung in my client’s homes or businesses, to see how they add to or even make an interior space. When other people are appreciating my creation I feel like we’re connecting, that’s fulfilling.
5. If there was one thing you could change about your job what would it be?
To have more employees! having great people around you to bounce ideas off and to collaborate is the a great way to grow, we are getting there! but we cant wait to have a 20 strong team to make dreams come true.
6. What has been the highlight of your career so far?
My highlights would have to include going full time in my business, juggling two full time jobs at the start was difficult, so having the opportunity to be fully full-time in my business was just incredible for me personally, and having our light fixtures in beautiful buildings is always a highlight, to have our work matched to a beautiful space is always flattering and scary!
7. What advice would you give to anybody who wants to be a lighting designer, what do you wish you had known?
My advice, for anyone wanting to be a lighting designer would be to learn about electronics, product design and manufacturing in equal parts: its great to be able to design a beautiful object, but its even more enjoyable and rewarding to be able to design and build a practical beautiful object, knowing how and whats actually achievable allows you to design and build for your self, this gives you freedom as a design and maker. Also ask for help when you need it, and push boundaries, never undersell your self, your skills are always valuable and become more valuable with your experience.
8. For you, what makes the ideal home?
I don’t like homes that make you feel nervous because you might break everything, or make you feel cold because the space is so empty, but I don’t like cluttered homes either. I like a balance between aesthetics and comfort, it has to look nice, but you want to be able to kick your boots off.
9. Describe your personal interior style.
Minimalist but lived-in. I like Scandinavian-style homes, the way they artfully mix clean lines with soft edges, cool materials and colours with warmer ones, lots of light, bold modern artworks, a few vintages pieces, and statement lighting.
10. What is your favourite piece from the Furniture Village collection?
The New England brown leather chesterfield sofa. Such a classic. A room with this sofa and one of our modern chandeliers would be the perfect blend of old and new.
Quick fire questions
· Metal or wood?
If you know how to, use both.
· Modern or vintage?
Modern with traces of vintage.
· Warm or cool?
· Refined or rustic?
· Simple or eclectic?
Simple, but still a little eclectic.
· Minimalist or opulent?