Known for mixing unexpected materials in his bespoke pieces, lighting designer Christopher Boots enjoys experimenting with artisan glass, ceramic, copper and bronze.
Trained in industrial design and product engineering at Swinburne National School of Design, Boots cut his design teeth working for the late Geoffrey Mance at Mance Design. In 2011, he opened up his own architectural lighting studio in Melbourne where he uses a broad variety of techniques from local glassblowers, coppersmiths, ceramicists, sculptors, and bronze casters.
Recently EnLIGHTenment Magazine chatted with the designer about his work.
EnLIGHTenment Magazine: How has growing up in Melbourne shaped how you view design?
Christopher Boots: Melbourne is the cultural hub of Australia, in the anglo-white sense (though the indigenous culture pre-dates the European by about 60,000 years) with a heartbeat based on a strong street art scene, fabulous food and wine, great coffee and layer upon layer of cultures that have added their own over the past 180 years or so: Chinese, Greek, Irish, Kenyan, Thai, Vietnamese… the list is endless. We’re basically a melting pot of all these cultures and we end up practically having a little bit of everything on-hand.
Design-wise I guess we have architecture that is accessible, meaning that unlike Europe where I’ve heard architects may struggle to get anything built before they are 40, there’s been a boom in the past 20 years or so. Melbourne just keeps growing, unsustainably so (in the past 11 years by 750,000 people). It’s got big town aspirations, but still a small city feel for now.
My influences were based on spending quiet time alone in the bush where I grew up as a child; collecting leaves, feathers, and rocks, studying natural patterns and observing. Living on a farm as a young boy was the best fun – building my own cubby houses in the forests, gardening ,and getting messy – these are inspirations first-hand. My work now is merely an extension of these observations.
EM: You first studied cinema, linguistics, and media at university before entering the Industrial Design program. What made you switch your focus?
CB: Industrial design, with its world of materials, social considerations, processes et al, was a natural extension of my inclination to experiment with making objects and sculpture. Earlier interests in linguistics and media were based on a drive to change the world through perception and language. This still comes through in the way I see light works as markers for perceptual shifts. Using form as language usually transcends most verbal or written language issues we face as a species.
EM: You’ve had your work shown in Chicago, London, Milan, and New York and would like to exhibit in Miami, Houston, Paris, Moscow, and Tokyo next. Why did you choose those particular cities?
CB: Travelling is my inspiration and muse; there is no comparison to stepping into a different city or country and adjusting to its vibe and tempo. Diversity is key to thriving in a multi-faceted, multi-polar world. The old guard just doesn’t sit as well as it used to.
EM: You have described the materials you use as “primal” as it relates to nature. What other materials appeal to you?
CB: My signature materials thus far are brass, bronze, and crystal. I love honest materials. Metals are so flexible, timeless, and age wonderfully. The use of crystals reference a past that we never look back upon. Future wise, I’m looking into carbon fiber, wood, terracotta, diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, rubies, and concrete, to name a few.
EM: What is it about illumination that intrigues you?
CB: Illumination allows us to see things. We cannot see anything without light – even though technically we are all light, but I guess a philosophical/quantum discussion is far beyond the reaches of this interview.
EM: Do you have a signature look, or do you prefer to change things up?
CB: I guess I like seeing classic references interpreted in contemporary ways using classic materials. It is a timeless signature that will never date.
EM: What can we look forward to seeing from you in 2014?
CB: The future flies towards us a hundred miles an hour… where to next? Probably more USA visits, and I feel Moscow, Seoul, and Addis Abibba on the radar.