I was very lucky while I was at Salone del Mobile to get the chance to interview one of my favorite lighting designers, Michael Anastassiades.
First I asked him about the inspiration behind his two new collections for Flos…
Then we talked about his approach to design…
You talked about the importance of ‘honestly expressed materials’ in your work – could you tell me about how that has informed this range?
It’s important, when you’re designing something for a company like Flos. I’ve worked in my own collections in a very experimental way as my personal platform. The creation of my own brand and my own company was very much about achieving the freedom to express what I believed in, in my own way. Working with materials is very formative; materials like glass and wood and stone. I believe in the longevity of the design, not only in terms of the materiality, but also in the visual language. It needs to become almost anonymous, so that it survives time and doesn’t become dated and associated with a certain time period. So this collaboration with Flos, is about how you translate that into mass manufacturing, how you capture exactly the quality I wanted to express.
Your work is beautifully understated, tell me about how you’re able to pare design right back to the minimum…
It’s a reductive process. I like to refer to my inspiration as a process of subtraction. I don’t want to refer to minimalism. It was an interesting movement in art in 1950s and 1960s, but in the 1990s or late 1980s, it gained quite perverted associations, not very nice associations. So I like the idea of a reductive process, I go through a process of subtraction until I capture the essence of what is left, what has to remain to be the essence of the piece, from a functional and aesthetic point of view. You work on all sorts of different layers in this reduction exercise to take away the excess and purify the product into what it becomes.
How does your design and making process work?
The process varies, there is no specific formula for working. Every time it’s different. Some processes are simple, some are much more difficult to achieve, but you have to keep reminding yourself, what is the essence here, what is the pure essence and how do you get to it? You have to keep reminding yourself of that.
What’s the most important thing to know about you?
It might sound hypocritical, but the reality is that it is anonymity. Hypercritical because my name is the name of the company, but in the language of the products there is a certain ambiguity, you can’t really place them in a time period or a type of design. This expresses very much what I believe about design – in the design world or the art world, nothing is new. Everybody wants to claim they’ve invented something revolutionary… The reality is you have to embrace something or reinterpret something that has been done before, but in a very discrete and subtle way, in a new setting or context. This idea of ambiguity is very interesting. The most important challenge is to be thoughtful – I think you have a duty to be thoughtful as a designer, and create things that will survive time. Everybody’s dealing with recycling, but it’s the wrong approach because they are looking at the death of the product. Why look at the death of the product – why does it need to die?
What advice would you give to an aspiring lighting designer?
You have to really believe in what you’re doing and I think you have to understand why you’re doing it. And you have to be persistent, because if you really believe in something, it will happen, it’s only a matter of time. I think that’s a general rule with anything you do that’s outside the norm. It’s such a competitive industry, and if you have something different to say… unless you believe in it, nobody else will.
That’s why I did what I did – I wanted to remove the noise – everything that is expected of you as a designer. I feel its my duty to get my product out, for people to use, so I created a platform to work from. And through persistence, experimenting, doing it over and over again, and refining my point, and eventually people saw what I was doing and wanted to work with me. It’s great when that happens, it’s a great platform to step onto. As a designer you have a better understanding of the process, not just the aesthetic, but you understand your responsibilities to your product – that you have to stand beside it; to put your money where your mouth is.
What’s your favorite part of the design process?
I think everything, all of it, from the inspiration to actually going into somebody’s house and seeing the piece there and continuing to be surprised. People see different things that you haven’t seen before – this is amazing; there a different appreciation of what you have created.