Alex Davis, a Delhi-based artist and designer, started Indi Store way back in 1999 epitomising ‘India Modern’ philosophy. One of the first to exhibit collections for interior and exterior spaces, today he has set a benchmark for original and contemporary design. Here, Alex talks about his lighting designing philosophy:
What is it that fascinates you about light?
The fact that something so light can fill up a large space. From when I can remember, I have loved light and light sources. Some of my earliest projects at the design school, ended up as lamps around different shaped bulbs.
My favourite genre of lighting is ambient light. The way I design lamps is that it should create a mood for the space that it put in. Its only function should be to create a mood or an ambiance. When I set up Indi Store back in 1999, I designed the cocoon lamp. This lamp got its name from the shape that it was made in. Made from pine slivers, carefully peeled from a log and then fixed on to a pre-made structure and shaped like a cocoon. The thickness of the sliver created the quality of the light that came through it along with the gaps between each sliver. The cocoon lamp has gone through many avatars. We have them in the shape of a globe, a pendant, a post and of course the original cocoon shape. We sell them to this day and the lamp has become synonymous with Indi Store. We make them in three wood finishes: light ash, walnut and dark wood. We also make them in natural steel and stainless steel in 4 different finishes: gold, silver, copper and gun metal. Besides the cocoon, we have some beautiful lamps: The Luna, The Kudu – inspired from the Kudu of Africa, Woody, Chrysanthemum, Column, Monsoon, Patchwork and the latest in burnt wood and metal – Carbon.
What’s your lighting designing philosophy?
Lighting design has always interested me. My philosophy is very simple…my lights should look sculptural when they are switched on or off. My approach to everything I design has been that: It is an art with a purpose or function. My inspirations come from nature and what I see around me. The designs are simple and not fussy. When I conceive an idea for a lamp, its sole purpose is to decorate and create interest when it is switched on or off. I have excellent artisans who make every piece by hand and that adds a ‘human-ness’ to every product in the store. It makes the space feel warm even when the light is turned off.
What makes a great piece of lighting solution?
Depending on the purpose that the light has to perform, lights and lighting should be designed. If one manages to fill that criteria, then the solution is perfect. We work on different projects where we design lights for a particular requirement. Sometimes, it is to light up offices and at others it could be to create atmosphere in a home…sometimes it is an interesting chandelier at others it is a sculpture. I recently did an installation for Swarovski. It was called Deepa and was a 22-foot high sculpture. This had no light in it but drew its inspiration from the flame from a diya. The sculpture was an ode to Diwali.
Lighting technology is changing very fast. How do you keep pace with technology?
One reads and sees what is available in the market. It’s always an interesting challenge to design lights using the latest that is available. The shape of the bulbs, the type of light and the purpose it has to fulfil, become the brief for a perfect lighting solution. One of my latest lamps is called Monsoon. It is like a rain drops made in metal wherein some have a tiny light source and some don’t. This is possible due to the size of the LED bulbs available. Then there are bulbs which are so beautiful in themselves, that it isn’t important to cover them with a shade.
What are the current challenges of working with LED technology?
The only problem I have with the LED lights is that the drivers get spoilt very fast. We need to improve that as that can be pretty irritating as the bulbs blow out very fast. We have used a lot of LED bulbs in our store. Each time one bulb blows out, it takes a lot of effort to change them. Since these are more expensive than regular lights, it would be great if they were also more reliable.
What’s your greatest achievement?
The fact that I am able to do what I love and there are people out there who appreciate what I do.
I did my mechanical engineering from Mysore university and followed it up with a PG in product design from the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. This was followed by a masters in industrial design from Domus Academy, Milano. I worked for Alessi before I came back to India. In my initial working years, I did a lot of interior design and furniture design for offices and homes. I needed something more to make me happy and keep me satisfied with my work. In 1999, I decided to open my own store so as to showcase my creativity. I designed and manufactured everything that I kept in the store. My philosophy was India Modern…I wanted to and still like to keep it contemporary with a timeless quality to everything that I make. At the time I launched Indi Store, there weren’t too many contemporary furniture stores in India. I continue to design for clients and we customise everything that we have as per a client’s requirement. Our pieces continue to be handmade keeping it real always. I work with a lot of stainless-steel, natural steel, brass and copper, besides wood and beautiful veneers from all around the world. I wanted to use something as industrial as stainless-steel sheets and pipes and convert them into pieces of art. I launched my first collection of 35 products in 2004, called ‘I went fishing’. This collection also had lights in them. Since then I have done 5 other collections and 3 of those have unique handmade lamps.
What’s your message for all budding lighting designers?
Understand your brief correctly and deliver the best possible design solution. It is important to be innovative and creative and keep abreast of all that’s happening around the globe.