London based designer and maker Saul Grant stopped by recently to talk us through his collaboration with Factorylux, his top vintage car crushes and his unique design process.
Could you talk us through the designs you worked on with Factorylux
The Phage tripod light is a fresh take on an old design. It ties in with how the Riemann light came about. Basically, I wanted to be able to have designs made which could be laser cut and folded from one or two pieces of metal. So it was about changing the process to something that was easy to manufacture. The process is part of the design, so the bends and folds are not just functional but actually contribute to the look.
…and where did the names come from?
Well with Phage, I had a friend of mine whose a microbiologist. She saw them and said ‘ooh they look like this’ and sent me a picture and it just stuck.
Now Riemann, he was an astrophysicist. He worked with folds in time and space which seemed a nice fit. It wasn’t any sentimental attachment I just wanted something which had an association. The name was very much retrofit to the product.
How did you get into design?
Designing lights came about from seeing the bulbs that Stanley [Urban Cottage Industries founder] was selling in London. I saw them in a pub and was really blown away. The filament bulbs, at the time you just didn’t see them. It was really unusual. I kind of logged it and carried on working. I wanted to do something independent and I wasn’t quite sure what. But I kept coming back to those bulbs and decided to make a couple of interior lights. So, I built a studio in my back garden so that I could do more work for myself and that was the first thing I made. It was a couple of lights using the large filament globes. My landlord popped round just after I’d finished and he really liked [the lights] and wanted to buy them. So I sold them to him. That was my introduction to there being a market for my designs.
If you could buy one iconic design piece (money no object), what would it be?
Oddly enough, I think it would be the Reliant Scimitar I just think they’re really unusual. I like the old Volvo’s as well. It’s just an unusual car with a massive engine in it. Just not what you want with a car with a fibreglass body.
I’m probably not the best person to ask. I don’t pay that much attention to design, I tend to ignore it. like, I pay attention to it in a very everyday way.
If you could design lighting for any space – where would that be?
I think the living room is the place that I think it [lighting] has its most impact. In that you’re around it all the time. For the majority of people its the living space that’s used the most.
Could you talk us through your design process?
Either, I’ll just have an idea and then I’ll try and make it. Or, if I’m allowing myself time specifically just to make new things, I’ll go without an idea and try and make something. Both are equally frustrating and rewarding. There’s a lot goes in the bin.
I find the drawing process more of a hindrance. I find it quite frustrating. It doesn’t help me understand. I would spend more time and waste more time doing that [drawing] than I would actually just going and making something and seeing what it looks like.
How long does it generally take to get from idea to finished design?
It varies. Phage was very quick. I think those are the ones that really work, the ones that just happen quickly. So, it can take a couple of days of actual physical work and then there is all the administration and waiting for stuff to arrive.
What are the main problems that you have to overcome when designing?
Being blocked psychologically, not having an idea. It’s one of those things. It’s like everything else, you have good days and bad days but it has a more immediate effect on your output.
What are your favourite materials to work with?
Steel and Wood. I kind of gravitated towards them. there’s just something very real and tactile about them both. They’re both quite satisfying materials to look at and touch and they work well together. There’s something just authentic about them as materials.
Where do you find inspiration?
It kind of happens by accident. I don’t go looking for it.
Traditional bulbs or LEDs?
I think aesthetically, traditional filament. But you can’t separate the environmental impact and also the innovation that LED represents. I think LED’s are the future, it’s impossible to ignore that. I think the filament bulbs were so popular so fast because of the look, there’s just something quite magical about them.
Finally, big picture or finer details?
Probably big picture. There’s not really much fine work in my designs. I try to keep them as simple as possible.