It’s somewhat ironic that Naomi Paul‘s beautiful lighting brand began with a uni project that involved deliberately making something ‘badly’. Fast forward to today and her contemporary pendant lights have caught the attention of commercial and private clients all over the globe.
Simple in shape, her pendants are hand crocheted from cotton and wool, with sustainability in mind. The full life cycle of the product is considered, designed for easy disassembly into raw component parts which can then be recycled or reused. The lampshade designs have a tactile quality whilst also evoking a sense of calm and balance. From her Hackney studio, she explains how her brand has evolved.
Where did your interest in textiles come from?
Whilst studying Graphic Design at Central Saint Martins, we were given a project to ‘make something badly’ so I decided to give knitting a go. Having never knitted before, I called my mother, who is a very accomplished knitter and maker – she can put her hand to just about anything – from a phone box in Archway, where I was living at the time. She taught me the basics using a pair of chopsticks for knitting needles!
I ended up knitting a swimming costume, which turned out to be not so badly made, resulting in a not so great mark. Soon after this, I realised Graphics wasn’t the direction I wanted to go in. Coupled with a trip to Japan where I discovered traditional weavers in Nagano, my interest in textile construction was ignited.
How did this lead to creating a series of lampshades?
I was commissioned to make a crocheted sculpture for a jeweller that I was working for part-time. Whilst making the piece, I began to think about how it could be stripped back and simplified whilst also adding an element of functionality.
My brother is a brilliant designer and entrepreneur and during a late night discussion with him, waiting for a flight at City airport just before Christmas, the idea was born to evolve the sculpture I’d created into a series of lighting forms. From this came weeks of sitting on the floor in my small Kings Cross flat crocheting yarn, experimenting with simple techniques of spiralling, increasing and decreasing to create voluminous shapes of varying sizes.
What are the key stages of the making process?
My designs are distinguished by the very precise yet simple nature of the forms, each crafted completely by hand. The shapes, although very smooth and refined, came about in a very organic way. I tend to work by trial and error exploring form through playing with the yarn, crocheting and unraveling many times until the 3D lines appeal to me visually.
The yarn we use to make the lights has a unique structural quality that is both soft and architectural which also helps to give the lights such defined silhouettes. The yarn is a mercerised cotton which I source from a family mill in Italy. It is then sent to Lancashire where it is knitted into a cable yarn before coming to us to be crocheted.
The slow craft of making material by hand is intrinsic to how the studio and our products are made, every single piece is unique but each and every one is made with the same care and attention to detail.
What has inspired your designs and where do you seek inspiration?
Our last collection ‘In Praise of Shadows’ is inspired by the writer Jun’ichirō Tanizaki’s essay of the same name. It was written in 1933 and it explores the dichotomy between Eastern and Western ways of seeing. I like to explore my ongoing interest in ‘quiet objects’ and with this, how handcrafted textiles coupled with light can evoke a feeling of wellbeing and tranquility within a space.
What kind of interiors are your lights best suited to?
As every project is so different, each client’s needs and environment need to be considered, so the process of designing can change a lot. We collaborate with internationally renowned architects and interior designers, transforming spaces into exceptional places. The pendants are extremely versatile, whether in restaurants, hotels or residential environments, due to their acoustic qualities and calming effects. They are also very tactile and people immediately get drawn to them and want to touch them.
In what ways is your work influenced by your immediate environment?
So much influences my ideas, from textures on surfaces to sounds all around me, to fashion, furniture design, architecture, materials, colour, people, dance – the list never ends! I share a studio space with my husband Nick Rochowski who is a photographer and we are constantly bouncing ideas and inspiration between one another, it is fantastic to always have another perspective and eye that I really trust and value.
Our space is on the edge of Hackney marshes, a little oasis of calm surrounded by flora and fauna, which is incredibly inspirational. Seeing the seasons change in the trees outside my window never fails to inspire and invigorate ideas in my mind.
Which is your favourite piece and why?
My favourite piece is our new ‘Powder Coated Cave Table Light’. I always tend to like the newest addition to the collection! It is pleasing to see something that has been work in progress for so long evolve into having a place within the collection.
What role does sustainability play in your work?
Sustainability is a key part of my design process and is integral to the development of each product from the pendant to the packaging. Every single element is carefully considered and we aim to use and make things that are recyclable or reusable at the end of their useful life. This can be done through changeable finishes or disassembly of materials and components that can be easily recycled or reused for different products.
What do you enjoy doing on your days off?
Everything and anything to do with food! Whether it is cooking, eating or listening to the Food Programme on Radio 4.
Naomi Paul pendants are all handmade to order in their East London studio. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.naomipaul.co.uk