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Meet the Makers: Marivi Calvo and Sandro Tothill for LZF Lamps

Sandro Tothill
Marivi Calvo and Sandro Tothill from LZF Lamps

From their humble beginnings of designing lamps in Valencia, Spain, Sandro Tothill and Marivi Calvo, the co-founders of LZF Lamps, have evolved into an international success story—receiving numerous awards and outfitting homes and businesses in over 20 countries—thanks to their handcrafted lights and artistic creativity.

We spoke with Calvo and Tothill to discuss their decision to use wood veneer as a medium, what makes for good lighting and the latest YLighting exclusive: The Skyline LED Linear Suspension Light.

LZF has always pushed the boundaries of light as an art form, especially with your dedication to the use of wood in a sculptural way. How has lighting changed since you first began LZF? Has your approach to lighting changed?
25 years ago, undeniably things were simpler—two wires and a light bulb so to speak—now there are a whole myriad of options available, integrated LED, LED bulbs, OLED, all with dimming controls, Bluetooth controls, etc. The way light is produced and directed by LED sources means that the way the lamp is built and designed must be changed as LED lighting is very directional. Having said this, LZF’s final goal is still the same as when we began, create something magical and special that offers not only light but something beautiful to look at. That beauty is always the result of the fixture itself and the way it combines with light to create magic.

In your most recent product introduction, you worked with new materials, finishes, and designers. What brought about these changes? Tell us about your process in making these changes? Did you face any unexpected challenges?

Over our 25 years in business, LZF has partnered with many talented creative minds to develop products for our company. This year we partnered with architect Ramon Esteve, Jose Manuel Ferrero from Estudi{H}ac and Mut Design, all from Valencia, as well as working with longtime collaborator Ray Power. This new combination of designers has created a collection of fixtures that provide a freshness and innovative new ways of using wood veneer.

Ramon Esteve brings a specific aesthetic with his work – minimal, sophisticated, architectural, a somber elegance of extremely simple lines. The minimalism of Thesis was perhaps one of the greatest challenges that we have ever faced in lighting design, its simplicity demanded that every detail be highly refined, new techniques needed to be implemented in production, for example.

Estudi{H}ac has presented us with Skyline, a collection that reflects their signature style of tailor-made designs. Using different materials like glass, metal, and wood together they create new textures that LZF had not tried before.

Mut Design created the Loop and Lens series, objects that they describe as jewelry for the home, a delicious collection of ovals and circles that take lighting to the next level.

Ray Power has brought the intricate, stunning Lola to our collection, taking his concepts of infinite shapes to new heights.

Of course, every year, new lighting brings new challenges, new finishes to review, light sources, packaging, unexpected changes happen every time we make new models, its part and parcel of product development and sometimes, these unexpected challenges create or give us the final solution.

So, what makes for good lighting—is there more to it than simply illuminating an area?

Function, Form, Design, Energy Saving are all key factors.

Let’s examine the way you feel when you walk into a room that simply has a lightbulb hanging from the ceiling. It covers function and maybe energy saving if you are using an LED bulb, but how do you feel?

Usually, this kind of confrontation makes me feel like there is something terribly unfinished about the room. The naked bulb is like an unfinished sentence, this is why we believe that there is so much more to lighting than simply illuminating an area. It’s great to look at a light fitting, how its design works with and sets off its surroundings, and think, “How smart, clever or beautiful”.

It’s all about how it makes you feel, that nest-y nook in your lounge, or that kitchen table with so many dinners, or that work table where you lean back on occasion and admire the natural wood grain of your light while you take a breather from work.

We also should mention the importance of technology in this day and age. Dimming to warm, Bluetooth control from your smart device, theater modes, reprogrammable combinations that you can select at the touch of a button, allow you to interact and create your own stage lighting at home.

We work with wood and love how it brings a little bit of the outdoors inside … a hint of biophilic design for a home, office, hotel, etc. We also love the warm glow of natural wood when it is illuminated. If you look at any of the Agatha lamps you see a dynamic, sculptural fixture but when it is illuminated the light dances over, under and around the cascading loops of wood. Or, if you look at Skyline, the materials, the depth and the height of the fixture all come to life when it is turned on.

How does something go from an idea to a design to an actual product?

Just as every artist has his method, every designer that works with LZF has a unique process. Some present us with highly detailed sketches with specific materials, while others have a general sense of aesthetic and shape and we then collaborate by working the materials. Our in-house technology team is skilled at working with varying materials.

It is important to understand that not all ideas become products, maybe only 5% become an LZF fixture and this is down to several factors. First, the idea gets screened and selected by our design team lead by Marivi Calvo, these are selected based on the quality of the design, whether or not it fits the year’s particular criteria and its manufacturability with LZF’s infrastructure.

Once selected, it goes into prototyping which we do at LZF. This is vital to see how the light interacts with the fixture and whether the light source performs to the desired lighting needs, (be it office, home, hotel, etc.) Once the prototype is finished, we have a good idea of whether it can become a product or not. Only through prototyping can we know how much energy it will use, how big the box will be, what the customer experience will be and thus we are able to calculate its sale price and whether its fits in the market or not.

Tell us about the LZF Skyline, your latest innovation, exclusive to YLighting.

Created by estudi{H}ac, Skyline is tailor-made using layers of several distinct materials: natural wood veneer, wire mesh, and etched glass. The lamp diffuses light via a carefully arranged skyline of colors, textures, and shadows. With a focus on detail, shapes and materials, estudi{H}ac has woven its concept of tailored elegance into the fabric of Skyline.

Skyline is designed to swivel, facing either upwards or downwards, the outline of layered, decorative shapes provides an ambient glow, while the horizontal base shines a direct upward or downward light. A truly novel and inventive lamp, Skyline’s use of different materials marks a new direction for LZF.

LZF is also known for making custom larger-than-life pieces, like the enormous Koi that floats in Jose Andres’ restaurant Fish in the Bahamas, how do these projects come about?

Design: Capella Garcia Architecture; Photo: Liz Clayman

The Koi is part of the Life Size collection, a collection of oversized animals that include Elephant, Big Bird, and Walking Fish. All these models have their beginnings in a whole variety of collaborations with musicians, writers, graphic designers, artisans and artists. We call it LZF LAB, a place where almost anything can happen. Elephant and Walking Fish are enlarged versions of their counterparts in our Funny Farm wood figurines by Isidro Ferrer. Koi comes from a motion graphics LZF promo film by Inocuo the Sign. Five years later we took the 3D fish from the film and reproduced it, working with local artisans and using the traditional fallas woodworking technique to build the skeleton of this 12ft fish.

We allow ourselves the luxury of producing these lighting fixtures, it’s a joyful process that fuses art with lighting to create extraordinary lighting sculptures and, it keeps us dreaming….

 

Team Y

Team Y

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