LightArt’s New Collection Brings Geometry to Light

The FIVE X series was a truly cross-cultural collaboration, bringing together material traditions of Lyon with the high-tech design of Seattle.

The Pivot, comes in large-scale, modular fixtures which ship as completed configurations.

Images courtesy LightArt​

The turning point happened in front of Musée des Confluences in Lyon, France—an animal-like structure by Coop Himmelb(l)au that features a complex, three-dimensional metal facade.

“The Museum brought everything together,” Ryan Smith, LightArt’s president and creative director, explains. “It taught us how to create a shape that is fundamentally more interesting than a straight line.”

Smith had left his company’s base in Seattle and flown to Lyon in search of just such inspiration. LightArt, which specializes in handmade light fixtures and is known for both its “ready-to-go” and custom products, was looking to launch a new collection, one that would, for the first time in LightArt’s history, incorporate digital fabrication techniques.

For LightArt, materials are always a starting point in the creative process. Notes Smith: “What is authentic design? Probably the best way to answer that is by just looking at the material, because the material is authentic in its raw form, and the process is authentic because you get back to just doing it by hand.”

To achieve this balance of materiality and innovation for its new collection of fixtures, the company decided to embark in a partnership with iwoodlove, a design studio in Rochetoirin, France. Smith soon traveled to France to meet with the studio’s principals, Guillaume Martin and Michael Damen. They not only looked at a variety of materials but also explored the area around Rochetoirin, a hamlet southeast of Lyon, visiting the local landmarks and buildings—including the Musée de Confluences, where inspiration finally struck.

“Magic happens when there is a change in perception,” says Smith.

LightArt Engineer Kyle Burt and iwoodlove owner Guillaume Martin set-up materials for a CNC sequence.

A few weeks later, the LightArt team brought their concepts back to their Seattle headquarters for rounds of testing, design, and technology refinement.

Moving the design process from a standard computer to a sophisticated 5-axis CNC machine was exciting, but not without its own set of trials. “The learning curve for understanding how to use and test LightArt‘s new digital fabrication tools was steep,” Smith says, noting that constant tweaks and returns to the drawing board were commonplace. “Even though this process was really tough, it was also crucial to the creative process.

The multi-axis approach allowed the team to execute intricate shapes with maximum precision, and after two years of work, the four light fixtures in the FIVE X collection—Pivot, Vex, Ray, and Plot—were ready for the market.

Pivot features angles, curves, and planes that can be configured to form a variety of circular, linear, and zigzag shapes. Vex is a modular grid system with clean lines and faceted corners, creating a modern lit canopy available in several sizes and shapes. Ray is a symmetrically faceted three-dimensional beam, available in four standard lengths. Plot adds texture to tabletop and pendant fixtures with crisp fold detailing.

Smith describes this partnership as a truly cross-cultural collaboration, with just the right mix of traditional and modern. “It’s this contrast between the old and the new, the countryside of Lyon and high design of Seattle.”

Pivot table-top lamp

Ray features a series of symmetrically faceted beams.

Designers worked closely with digital fabricators by exploring techniques and material affordances.

An early prototype for the Plot lamp

A system of modular, three-dimensional tiles, Vex offers a variety of grid patterns.

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