Bec Brittain on her new lighting collection and ‘letting go of perfection’
On her studio’s 10th anniversary, the American lighting designer presents a new radical collection titled Aries Rising Capricorn and joins New York showroom Colony
American lighting designer Bec Brittain celebrates her studio’s 10th anniversary this year with a new, radical lighting collection and a new course for her practice. To mark the occasion, Brittain joined co-operative design showroom, Colony in a bid to resolve her personal commitment to social justice with her professional practice.
Following several years’ efforts of annual profit sharing towards causes such as birth justice and ending cash bail, as well as pledging to work with BIPOC-owned vendors and enacting hiring practices that uphold racial equality, Brittain’s shift away from the industry’s traditional structure is just another way she sees herself putting community first.
‘For years now, I’ve been moving Bec Brittain Studio to be less of a production-focused business and more of a community-driven studio,’ says Brittain. ‘My move to Colony reflects this and my desire to be socially and community-centered in my practice.’
Known for its network of independent designers and makers, as well as for its designer-focused approach to sales and showroom fees, the New York City showroom’s collaborative model has been tried and tested since its establishment in 2014.
‘I’ve always admired Bec’s deliberate choices both in design and business,’ says Colony’s founder Jean Lin. ‘The decision to join forces came about so quickly; we just realized that now might be the right time for both of us, and almost as easy as that, the decision was made. Bec joining Colony feels immensely important, not just because she is a dear friend and ongoing supporter of mine, but also because it validates our model of community-driven business as one that is viable in such a competitive market.’
To commemorate the new era, Brittain launches a lighting collection that showcases a departure from her earlier creations. Although emerging from her signature Aries design from 2017, the new lighting designs exhibit an intentional unpredictability and hand ‘drawn’ quality that renders each one-of-a-kind. Made from coloured fibre optic acrylic rods, that have each been bent and shaped by hand, the collection, named Aries Rising Capricorn, is made up of four ceiling fixtures and one table lamp.
‘From the beginning, I wanted Aries to be a scaffolding where I could explore a lot of ideas, so there have always been sketches about where I could push things,’ shares Brittain. ‘I’ve been really inspired by my boyfriend’s [artist Keith Riley] practice, so there’s been a lot of cross pollination, staring at his drawings and resource material. I found myself sketching more, letting go of perfection, getting more gestural. It crystallised in my head that I could find a way to bring more spontaneity and something that’s driven by the hand into my practice.’
Originally designed to be made out of glass rods, Brittain switched to acrylic rods ‘because the tools used to bend the acrylic enabled everything to be more casual. I wanted the materials to get out of the way so I could just have a practice,’ she says.
Enhanced with colours that accentuate the arc and turn of each rod, Brittain’s new lights ushers in a new self-assuredness that rebels against market expectation. ‘That’s what I hope this is a new leaf towards – not necessarily that I will never make a highly precise deliberate piece in the future, but that I have the confidence that the work is good enough and there will be an audience for me,’ she concludes. ‘There’s been some growing up in how I approach the work.’ §