Matthew McCormick is part of a stellar line-up of speakers who will give a talk on a variety of topics especially curated, keeping in mind the regional design industry and how it is influenced by global phenomena. This has led to a culture that has a cosmopolitan appeal but with a distinct Middle Eastern identity. Pratyush Sarup, head of programming, Downtown Design, speaks to McCormick in an exclusive interview for Commercial Interior Design about his approach towards lighting design, in particular.
You have worked in many fields. How did you eventually settle on a career in product design, and so specifically, lighting?
I started my career as a graphic designer, but after a while couldn't tolerate being on a computer all day. I wanted to take that graphic creativity and apply it with my own two hands, using new tools and materials, but specifically with regard to lighting (a long-time obsession for me). While I never expected to do it as a full-time job, I made a conscious decision to follow the opportunities that continued to present themselves.
It was a actually a chance encounter with a random dinner guest that was likely my launching point into lighting as a career; he saw one of my first creations hanging in my home - a simple, angular and branch-like fixture - and he proceeded to bring me into a commission for a local restaurant. In conjunction with some electrical contracting work I did on the side, one thing led to another, and I quickly became well-versed in a brand new field where I could apply my creativity in a way I felt the most fulfilled.
What drew you to explore artisanal making?
When I think of artisanship, I think of things such as attention to detail and finding the best "ingredients" for whatever you are making. It’s about digging into the artistic merit of your craft, and creating with reckless abandon to come up with something special.
For me, an artisanal design practice means I am investing in refinement. Whether it be through relentlessly trying to find the best in material, wiring, light sources or even partners in my craft; every iteration of my fixtures brings a more unique product that can stand the test of time (and also stand out in the marketplace). The key is to never conform to the stereotype.
How does one marry tradition with technology?
We believe that tradition and technology will always work hand-in-hand; you can’t necessarily have one without the other. We use the tradition of hands-on craftsmanship - be it metal finishing, blowing glass or detailed wood techniques - and marry it with state-of-the-art technology such as CNC machines and laser-cutting for precision, using SolidWorks for impeccable accuracy in our modelling, or incorporating the newest in light technology, such as LED.
We’re lucky that the technology available today is elevating the impact of our craft. We're combining the tradition of making beautiful objects with the power of new technology, thus making our final products better than the world has ever seen before. It’s an exciting journey.
You have a directional feel to your works - pure and simplified form and refined materiality. Please tell us about your creative journey - how do you establish your visual identity?
I think design is iterative and evolutionary, so I’m constantly sketching and drawing inspiration from every corner of my life. It’s important for me to see everything and stay curious.
As a trained graphic designer, my aim is to create hand-crafted lighting that marries a graphic language with technical precision - usually centred on a clear, two-dimensional statement that can be coaxed into unexpected contexts. My inherent focus is always to distill an idea to its simplest form, where clean lines can still hide very complicated hardware. Every piece must go through a precise construction process, but the end result is elegant and timeless.
What and who inspires you as a designer and a person?
When it comes to my biggest inspiration in why I pursued a career in lighting, I always reference the time when I stumbled across one of Ingo Maurer’s lights for the first time. It was the Mozzkito lamp, made from the most obscure parts that were seemingly items found commonly in households. When you see the sum of its parts come together and turned on, it was honestly one of the most beautiful creations I’d ever seen. The brilliance of his artistry still sticks with me today, and I can wholeheartedly attribute both Ingo and his lamp as one of my biggest inspirations in the field.
The deadline to pre-register for the talk happening at Downtown Design ends today. The event is open to trade and public visitors.