Hand & Eye Studio’s contemporary lighting collections were real standouts for me at Clerkenwell Design Week last month. I can honestly say I loved everything on their stand. What all the products have in common (despite surface differences) are thoughtful, subtle elements that make you pause and look. Even though you might not immediately know exactly quite why.
The reason probably lies in what made Tom Housden set up a design studio in the first place – “the desire to reacquaint designer and maker”. As a practising architect he’d come to feel “the profession’s approach to design was too hands-off and very remote from the process of manufacturing.”
Expanding on this idea, Tom explains:
“Just as we don’t expect a chef to write a recipe without experimenting with the flavours of the dish; equally we shouldn’t expect a designer to be separated from the physical process of making. The relationship between the designer and the physical object allows for subtle judgements in shape, space, texture and colour that could otherwise be missed. Perhaps more importantly, it allows for experimentation and accidental finds. It’s this that underpins Hand & Eye’s fundamental philosophy.”
The Bright Things range, an obvious contender for our favourite here at CBT HQ, has had eye-popping red, yellow and turquoise added to the original grey. These lights are bright, they’re glossy, they’re gorgeous.
But what makes them so particularly attractive, I think, is their arresting blend of lines and curves. A crisp, perfect, symmetrical form might have been the obvious choice to match the perfect, glossy finish. But that would have been exactly that – obvious – and similar to any number of other bright, shiny, modern pendant lights.
The lines of Bright Things, on the other hand, surprise and delight – they throw you a visual “curve ball”.
It’s hard to believe that these lights started life as the dull, dry, clay blocks pictured above. They’re mixed with water and then the liquid clay (slip) is poured into a plaster mould. After being left to stand for a short time the slip is poured out leaving a white clay shell behind. The final stage of the process is firing the shells twice – once to harden them, and once to fire the glaze that coats them in these stunning hues. The vibrantly coloured pendants also have a glazed white interior which ensures they produce an excellent quality of light.
In contrast, the family of Terracotta Lamps have a more rustic flavour, celebrating one of the most ancient of building materials, and also one that used to be part of the flourishing UK potteries industry. Now more likely to be associated with “cheap imported flower pots”, these lamps have been designed to show off the beauty of the raw material, and to help support this historical trade in the UK. The white glaze is applied by hand-dipping the shades, and a choice of brightly coloured electrical flex adds a contemporary design detail.
The Gooseberry, above, is wonderfully tactile, with its ridged terracotta base creating a subtle pattern and texture through the simple white glaze. The rim has been left unglazed, to reveal the underlying material.
It’s a close-run thing, but the two lamps fashioned from tulip timber – Acorn (above) and Portobello (below) – are giving the Bright Things range a real run for their money for first place in our affections.
Crafted in the UK by a master wood turner, the lights are assembled from a number of carefully shaped segments, and then turned on a lathe to produce the final shape. The process is described as “a labour of love requiring considerable skill and time.”
Both the Acorn and the Portobello are that wonderful combination of simple and elegant form and complex structure, with each segment adding subtle variations of colour and grain.
Established in 2011, Hand & Eye Studio is still in its early stages, and true to its founding principles develops its projects all the way from the initial design stage through to the making and manufacturing, collaborating in the process with a diverse range of craftspeople and workshops around the UK and Europe.
Going back to the reasons for its inception, I hope the studio’s “experimentation and accidental finds” continue for many years to come.
Visit handandeyestudio.co.uk to find out more about their lighting ranges, how they’re made, and how to purchase (all items are handmade to order).
Images: Hand & Eye Studio