Mention the word Barcelona to anybody and straight away architecture, Gaudi and football will come into the conversation. The Catalan capital is famous for all three, and much more.
A historical yet cosmopolitan city, Barcelona has always attracted creative minds, from artists Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso to writer George Orwell and more modern but lesser known talents such as jeweller Laura B. and the award winning French writer Jonathan Littell.Ireland has strong links with Barcelona too. Renowned Irish writer Colm Toibin spent time in the City after graduating from college while Dubliner Patrick O’Connell is regarded as the man who saved Barcelona football club.
Kilkenny native Ray Power is the latest creative to adopt the city, the Lighting designer, currently associated with LZF, a Spanish lighting company with a reputation for designing hand-made wood veneer features.
Power has lived there for the last six years and has strong ties with Spain since winning tickets to the Valencian furniture fair in September 1997.
The city may be his home and while the beautiful architecture and cobbled streets offer wonderful scenery during a break from designing, they play little part in the creative process, which has it roots in St. Kieran’s college, Kilkenny, which we here at Willie Duggan Lighting are delighted about as the city is the creative hub of Ireland and is also our home.
“Barcelona is a great city to live, it’s lively, colorful and there is lots of cool stuff to see but is it directly related to my work? Not Really. My work is based on an internal development and my own personal journey. I loved technical drawing when I was in school. I liked putting the theorem’s I learned off in math’s class into practice and I got a buzz off it. I still love plane and solid geometry.
After I finished college I entered a design competition and didn’t win. The organizers did however send me a ticket for the Valencian furniture fair and I decided that it would be a good opportunity to show my portfolio and hang out in Spain for a week”
That love has led to a career in design and while he might not like to admit it, finishing second has afforded him the opportunity to develop into a world-class designer.
Sixteen years later, Power, who spent three years working on the floor with LZF, has made Spain his permanent residence and works very closely alongside the manufacturer.
“I actually stumbled upon LZF at the fair, they were small at the time and had only been in existence for a couple of years. There were only three of them in the company if I remember. But I was impressed with their work and I jumped at the opportunity to work with them. It was a hands-on-deck kind of company in those days and I was involved in the design and manufacturing process. Their growth has been slow and steady over the years. It was a fantastic learning experience. I spent three years working with LZF and I learned a lot”
He might no longer be seen working on the floor at LZF but he has maintained the relationship and the pair has worked together on numerous design projects over the years, the most recent being the LZF Escape lighting range.
For Ray the design process, once the idea gets formed, can be relatively straightforward.
“When I get an idea for a composition into my head the first thing I do is try to visualize it as a lighting feature. Lighting is very important to the creation of mood. On a personal level I love pendant lighting, I love the way the light hangs almost like it is there by itself, like the sun in the sky. For me, it’s a lovely expression of light where it should be.
So I try to work to capture that. I want to capture the beauty of geometrics and the ethos of LZF into my creation.
LZF work in a niche market with the wood veneer, a contemporary style never too far off trend and the same applies to geometric design.
Sometimes a geometrical composition will be a good idea but won’t work as a lighting feature.
The idea needs to be practical too because at the end of the day your name is going to be associated with it and you are responsible for it. I am very lucky to be working with LZF, as they are very open to ideas and they invite me to come up with inspirational features. The ultimate aims of my compositions are to light up a space properly so it’s about working with design and functionality.
Chinese lanterns and oriental designs are very chic and in-vogue at present but will these still be the case in a few years? With a geometric design you are never too far out of fashion”
Matching the concept with function and tracing the development from notes on a page to a hanging feature can often be a time consuming affair but there are some eureka moments.
“I remember one of the first lighting features I did for LZF was the Farolillo. The idea just came to me, it was simple really, just four flat pieces that folded at the top where the bulb fitted. LZF loved the idea and it worked well. It gave off wonderful light and came in a variety of colours.
However while it was visually very appealing it had one problem. It was made from polypropylene a form of plastic. The same applied to another design I worked on, LZF Alhambra.
Plastic doesn’t have the same noble connotations to it as say wood or glass. A lot of mass produced lighting is done using plastic and in order to enter that market LZF realized they would have to produce larger volumes, so they decided to concentrate on what they initially set out to do, wood veneer”
It proved to be a wise move as the Escape range from LZF was recently nominated for an award at the Best of Year awards by magazine, Interior Designer.
With more and more designers relying on technology, Ray’s latest project has its roots in firmly in the past with the designer, temporarily anyway, turning his back on software for the composition.
“It’s a composition of cubes tilted on-to their diagonal axis and arranged in such a way that M.C. Escher, the Dutch graphic designer, would be proud. I first composed the idea and knocked it out as a virtual 3D computer drawing but couldn’t fully appreciate it on the monitor. I went on to making a real wood “maquette” and now I find the road ahead with this one is a lot clearer”
Given the success with the LZF Escape composition, we will all look forward to seeing Ray’s next creation.
Ray was speaking with Trevor Keane, Digital Marketer with Willie Duggan Lighting. For information on our range of lights, including the LZF Escape Pendant, visit our site.