Behind the scenes of handcrafted lighting
We're back with a new 'Meet the Maker' interview. This week we sat down with Jen from ARCFORM to hear all about her and her husband Steve's journey to creating their luxury lighting brand. So, sit back and enjoy reading about the wonderful craftsmanship that is at the heart of this great British brand.
SGB: What inspired you to first start ARCFORM?
Jen: We have both always had a passion for architecture and interiors. Over the years, we have developed a number of properties and always struggled to find lighting that was a little bit different. We also found ourselves frustrated by the lack of quality of the mass-produced and imported lighting.
SGB: How did you move from inspiration to a fully formed brand? What did it take to get ARCFORM off the ground?
Jen: Strangely enough, Covid was actually the catalyst for ARCFORM becoming a reality. Although it was a bit of a juggle with homeschooling 2 small children, we suddenly had a lot of free time at the weekends and evenings due to being in national lockdown. We decided that it was now or never.
SGB: Where did your love for product design begin and why did you choose to design lighting specifically?
Jen: Steve, my husband, designs all the lighting and has always loved designing. He has a book where all his ideas start and is constantly sketching and making notes. Lighting is something that can really make a difference to a home if designed right and it can be a piece of art as well as functional, which really appealed to us.
SGB: Can you talk us through the manufacturing process and the craft skills used to create your products?
Jen: Our lighting is made using a process called slip rolling. Slip rolling is a process that has been around for years and is traditionally used to create cylindrical shapes. Steve has developed a unique way of using the slip rolling machine to create our signature asymmetrical shape. Steve's background in manufacturing and engineering enables enabled him to come up with this new way of using the slip rolling machine.
SGB: How did Steve come to perfect these skills? And how long did it take?
Jen: The process has evolved over time and many prototypes were made to get to the final design that we have now. Designing a new product is a fairly lengthy process but getting it right is important, it probably took 9 months to get it exactly right.
SGB: Which is your favourite thing about your brand and why?
Jen: We love being a totally British company. Everything from start to finish is designed, sourced and manufactured in Britain. We are incredibly passionate about this but it also enables us to have much more control over our product and processes. Most of our suppliers are within 25 miles of our studio. It means that we haven't had any supply issues and that everything is exactly the way we want it as we’re not too far away to be able to check the quality at every stage of production.
SGB: Let’s talk materials, at SGB the use of quality materials is important to us, can you tell us about the materials you use?
Jen: We only use solid brass and copper. Even the details like the knurled screws are solid brass. We even use brass lamp-holders that we get from a 150 year old family business in Birmingham. Both the quality and the source are what provide us with great quality.
SGB: What does your approach to sustainability look like? And why is it important?
Jen: Most furniture and lighting bought in this country is shipped in from thousands of miles away. A much more sustainable way, is to source and make in this country. All our products are made by us in the UK and all of our suppliers also manufacture in the UK. On average, the complete journey of every part of every product to the customer is less than 100 miles, giving a huge environmental benefit.
SGB: Where do your main inspirations for design lie?
Jen: Geometric forms, mostly curved, often quite organic. Our designs are also mostly quote asymmetric, which is a little unusual in lighting design.
SGB: Are you inspired by any other makers/designers etc?
Jen: Lots of what we do is influenced by sculpture - artists like Martha Sturdy and Richard Serra have produced some truly amazing curved works which serve as great inspiration for our designs.
SGB: How would you describe your design philosophy?
Jen: Our designs are quite minimal - the forms and simple the products feature very few parts. We also use a fairly limited palette of materials. The clarity of the design and quality of materials should speak for themselves.
SGB: You mention that to you simplicity is the key to luxury, how do you implement this into the final products/designs?
Jen: We try to let the forms and materials of our products speak for themselves, rather than being overpowered by unnecessary embellishments. Our signature ARC pendants are rolled from a simple sheet of brass or copper.
SGB: Which of your products are you most proud of and why?
Jen: Our ARC collection were our first products and so we will always be especially proud of these.
SGB: How do you think the handcrafted nature of your pieces effects the final product?
Jen: The organic nature of the designs requires them to be made by hand. They are formed on very manual machines and all the finishing is done by hand - every piece is subtly unique and produced to the highest quality.
SGB: What impact do you want your work to have on the consumer?
Jen: Many of our customers comment on how our lighting is like a piece of art for their room and that that they look stunning whether on or off, which is so lovely. We also try to provide a personalised service, and be there for our customers should they have any questions. That means a lot in today's world to many of our customers.
SGB: Is there anything exciting in the pipeline for ARCFORM?
Jen: We are close to launching our next range, which we are very excited about. We are just at the final prototyping stage and we can't wait to share it with everyone.