Set in Stone: Spotlight On Hubbardton Forge’s Paul Marr-Hilliard
When Hubbardton Forge lighting designer Paul Marr-Hilliard discusses his background in design and where he turns to inspiration, it quickly becomes apparent that his influences are set in stone – literally.
Marr-Hilliard’s first forays into design involved sculpting stone. “I enjoy working in stone and metal, and more recently finding ways of combining the two. My lighting design career grew directly out of doing sculpture,” he explains.
The spark that ignited his design flame actually predates his first work with hammer and chisel. His grandfather was an inventor and had an overwhelming curiosity about how things work. “I think I inherited that fascination and curiosity about how things work.”
Taking things apart to see what makes them tick is something that’s served Marr-Hilliard well in many of his designs. A perfect example can be found in the design of the Landscape LED Pendant. “I made some sketches and the original concept was based more on the idea of planes in motion through the center,” he says. Once the design moved from sketch to a physical prototype however, he realized the light wasn’t playing off the steel strips the way he envisioned. From there, with collaboration from the rest of the design team and Prototype & Tooling, a modified design was created and the results have been very successful with the Landscape becoming one of the more popular pieces.
Another fixture that relied on the deconstruction/reconstruction approach was the Summer LED Pendant. “It’s about the architectural elements being broken apart and reconfigured,” he says. “The idea with the horizontal light guide meanwhile, is to elicit the idea of the horizon floating.” Initially designed with just the aluminum panes in mind, after bringing the idea to the rest of the team, the possibilities were expanded when textured glass panes were introduced as an option. “It provides more of an architectural element and a very different look,” says Marr-Hilliard.
Although his personal artistic medium is stone and some slabs may start at nearly 10 feet tall and hundreds of pounds, Marr-Hilliard still appreciates the beauty of delicate materials and understated presentation. “The Ursa, with the bubble glass was a little bit of a mystery. I wondered how the light would react with the bubbles,” he says. From start to finish, the design for the sconce was driven by how the light would react with the seeded glass. Even though it’s inherently semi-transparent, it’s still attention-grabbing. “The mounts around the glass were specifically designed to make the glass the centerpiece, to treat it as if it’s a precious piece of art which in a way, I suppose, it is. The metal plate behind the glass meanwhile, acts like a pedestal.”
Although the process of developing a piece from idea to final product happens under one roof and in a matter of months, time itself can be a challenge. “It’s hard because that initial excitement at the beginning of the design process gets replaced with working on the details as it gets handed off and along the way new ideas come up that I want to work on. When a piece is finalized after being so closely focused on all the individual parts, it’s nice to stand back and remember ‘that’s what you look like!”