One of the most challenging things in life is figuring out what you actually want to do to make a living. Some people never figure it out. But Andy Morter, Design Developer at Hubbardton Forge, figured things out pretty early and still loves what he’s doing today.
“When I was 10, my mom started a side business making lampshades, called Shady Lady Lighting. My dad, an engineer, started doing the wiring for lamps. The business took off and my dad quit his job to work full-time with my mom.” As the business grew, it moved from the family’s farmhouse, about 30 miles outside of Milwaukee, to a nearby factory.
Shady Lady was a family business in every sense, with Andy pitching in, “As a kid, I was winding cords, putting sockets together.” He attributes that experience and some of the gearhead tendencies he inherited from his dad, to his interest in mechanical work. “I took up welding, fabricating, went to school for tool and die, and that led to my own product line,” he says. That also led to his introduction to Hubbardton Forge. Morter says the two companies occupied the same market space back in the Forge’s early days.
After years of business success at Shady Lady, things took a turn when the economy tanked in 2007. “The recession hit the business hard, my parents decided to find a buyer for the business and I had to give serious thought of what I’d do next,” he says. Hubbardton Forge was on his radar because of its history, craftsmanship and quality. “I don’t think those things, as the foundation of the company, are things you can offshore and they’re not things that will go away.”
Now, a little more than five years after joining the Forge, Morter’s known as the company’s LED guru, but he didn’t come on board with that know-how. “I didn’t have any LED knowledge when I joined the team, but I knew that it was something important we were missing. I reached out to a local LED manufacturer and also took some courses at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Between the two, I picked it up pretty quickly.”
That education in LED resulted in what Morter points to as his biggest success so far, “I developed the light guide that we have in a lot of our products today like the Planar, Flux, and Cityscape.”
Morter didn’t leave his light guide innovation alone though. “After we had the light guide getting used for the Planar, I thought about drilling holes through it. David Kitts (Design Director), started drawing a sketch on a whiteboard of how we could drop rods into it. We got to the Cityscape from there.”
The Flux and Encounter also came about from some experiments Morter carried out. “I put the light guide in an old oven to slump it and get the shape.” From there, it was on to figuring out the algorithm for etching the light guide that would help reflect the light and make it follow the newly formed curve.
As he continues to build on his successes, Morter also continues to honor his father’s gearhead influence. “The work I’m doing is like the work I would do on a car. I want the chassis to be great, because you can put the best body on it, but if that foundation isn’t there, it’s not going to perform how you want it to. For lighting, I make sure our designs are being built on a great chassis.”
As for his design style? Morter says his influence is more automotive than art. “I think I get my inspiration more from Henry Ford than Henri Matisse.”
With a history spanning more than four decades, Hubbardton Forge has built a reputation in the lighting industry and among designers and consumers for high quality and handcrafted artistry. With a team driven by design, the newest designs being created – from idea to finished fixture – are winning awards and accolades, but more importantly, they’re finding a place in the finely designed spaces of our customers. Best of all? All the magic happens under one roof in the Green Mountains of Vermont.