Design inspiration can be pulled from nearly anywhere–the sources are limitless. The natural world, for example, is a common muse due to its variety and beauty. Being able to harness that inspiration is another matter, though. That’s where artistry and skill merge.
Hubbardton Forge’s Zephyr LED Pendant is a perfect example of nature’s influence and an artist’s vision. If you’ve ever seen a leaf pushed and pulled by the wind, you have an idea of how a breeze twists and turns. This pendant captures that movement through the use of hand-forged steel and an artfully shaped LED light guide.
A Fluid Design Process
It took a number of people from different teams at Hubbardton Forge to create the Zephyr. At the start of the process, the design team worked with sketches and small models made of paper and foam to refine the shape of the design–some of these models were just inches long. The idea was discussed, debated, refined. Once the designers were satisfied, they tapped the engineering team to create a full-scale prototype to see how the Zephyr would look in a “real world” setting. The pendant hung in the design room where the team again reviewed it, made suggestions and tweaked things.
Careful consideration went into every aspect of the design. After some trial and error, it was decided that the light guide would be made of acrylic rather than glass…for a variety of reasons. The first was the fact that a proprietary algorithm would be used to laser-etch a pattern beneath the light guide’s surface, a process made much easier with acrylic’s malleable surface. (Those etchings help to reflect and refract the light, and enable it to follow the curves of the guide.) The second reason was that a thin ribbon of glass, especially one that has been etched, would be incredibly fragile; at the same thickness, acrylic is much stronger. Finally, acrylic weighs less than glass, allowing the entire fixture to be lighter.
Bringing the Zephyr to Life
The work didn’t end at the prototype stage, of course. After the design was finalized, dozens of hours were spent to create tooling in-house that would help to recreate the flowing elegance of the steel frame, keeping it within specifications each time. Tooling was also created for the light guide in order to have it mimic the shape of the steel.
Such forms help to make the actual manufacture of the Zephyr nearly as fluid as its shape. For the steel work, the blacksmiths fire up the forges to heat the steel to an orange glow. They then use traditional instruments like hammers and tongs–paired with the newly-created tooling–to coax it into shape. The heat texturing of the steel is created during this process, and each piece of steel displays its texture differently, making each Zephyr Pendant unique.
After the blacksmiths work their craft, other teams take on the next steps. Welders, teams in charge of applying finishes and experts that wire the electrical all do their part in Castleton, Vermont.
When all’s said and done, the teams involved have had the opportunity to step back and see what they created together. Everyone agrees that the translation from inspiration to design is perfect. The appreciation for a design well-done has also spread far beyond the Forge, as the Zephyr was nominated as a finalist in Interior Design Magazine’s 2017 Best of Year Awards. We predict it to be the first of many such honors to come.
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.