Global Lighting recently introduced Ay Illuminate, a handcrafted collection of lighting designed by Ay Lin Heinen and Nelson Sepulveda. Ay Illuminate is located in The Netherlands and works with artisans in developing countries to explore natural materials and adapt traditional techniques to contemporary lighting design. Last week, A+A interviewed At Lin via email:
What is the biggest challenge in your work?
We try to keep handicraft alive. In order to keep handicraft interesting and desirable for the next generation, we need to bring the quality to another level. This way handicraft will have a chance to maintain visibility in our daily lives. People will appreciate the beauty of it. The next level however is a challenge to reach. The artisans hang on to their traditional skills that they have used for many generations; it is part of their identity. We are trying to keep the traditional skills and identity while translating into contemporary design. That is why we need to drag them out of their comfort zone. They are so proud when they see the results themselves, it is big surprise.
Where do the new Zi lights come from?
We work with a group of young artisans in a small village about three hours from Manila to create natural handmade paper shades that are made of Mulberry. The bark is stripped off of branches and dried. Once the bark is cleaned with spatulas to remove the hard, dark portions, we cook it for three hours with ash and acoustic soda. Then we rinse it and put the raw material into a pulping machine. After the mixture becomes a pulp, it goes through a special process to make it into a fabric-like material. The wonderful benefit about being able to give these young people work in their village is that it keeps them from having to go to Manila to find employment. They are able to stay in their own homes with their families, which is so important in their culture.
How do you find the artisans that you work with?
We meet most of them at Maison&Objet at the CBI stand (Ministry of Foreign Affairs). CBI is the Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries
What are the materials used? Do you have a favorite material?
Bamboo, rattan, vine, palm, cotton, sisal, silk, cashmere, paper, metal, ceramics, glass. No favorite, as I am still exploring and learning and always are amazed by the endless possibilities of these materials. How these materials are part of life and work for generations and generations, ages and ages. The artisans we work with have these materials in their genes. They know exactly the possibilities and it looks incredible easy when they are working with it. Like making a sandwich.
Are the lights green or sustainable in any way?
We try to keep our models and materials as simple as possible. No plastics or epoxy. Ideally it can be made without machines. Pure handicraft. All made from natural materials or recycled (natural) materials. No plastics ( not even recycled) as we do not want to give the world an excuse to continue producing plastic.
How are these products used and where around the world?
We are happy to see our products are used residential, in projects like restaurants and hotels and are spread out literally all around the world to be used in daily life.
How do these products help the local economies?
Besides the fact that all our productions work with local people, we also work with companies such as:
• Azezana / Afghanistan – Empowering women. www.azezana.net
• Gone Rural / Swaziland – Empowering women. www.goneruralswazi.com
• Masaeco / Philippines – www.masaecopaper.com
• Hacienda / Phillipines – www.haciendacrafts.com
Where do you find your inspiration?
By amazement in daily life.
For more, go here.