Thursday, 19 April 2012

Q & A with lighting designer Hannah Nunn

Hannah Nunn lives and works down the road from Saltaire in Hebden Bridge, where she manages to juggle creating beautiful lighting designs, some of which she'll be exhibiting at Saltaire for the first time, with running a successful shop selling other designers lighting to the discerning people of Yorkshire.

Hannah will be exhibiting in 71 George Street as part of the Arts Trail.

Tell us about the work you do and the types of materials you use.
I make glowing paper cut lighting and over time, since I made the first one about 9 years ago, my collection has grown to include table lamps in four shapes and sizes, wall lamps, floor lamps, wall panels, strings of tiny fairy lights, candle covers and the odd non-light-up-things like my window hangings. I have a personalised range of lamps too which are brilliant to celebrate special occasions like weddings and new babies.

I use paper, a 300gsm parchment, chosen for its warm ambient glow when it has light behind it. I cut my designs from it, sometimes by hand and sometimes by laser and I build up layers of light and shadow. The laser is so precise that it can engrave the top layer of paper away so I use engraving too. When the design is complete I laminate the paper for strength and durability and to create a final translucent layer of bright white light which shines through the cut out areas and the tiny pinpricks when illuminated.

Where do you produce your work? Does your working environment form part of the inspiration for your art?
I live and work in Hebden Bridge and have a studio/shop in the downstairs floor of my house. It’s the perfect spot nestled in amongst lots of other great little creative business and shops in a stunning wooded valley which I draw a lot of inspiration from. After making my own lighting for a few years I became inspired to open a shop where I could sell handmade lighting by lots of other designer/makers well as my own too. I had become obsessed by lighting! My shop is called Radiance and is a real celebration of artistry and light, which, I’m told, lifts the spirits! I have my studio at the back of the shop in what used to be the old dining room and its flag stone floors, wood burning stove and sash windows provide me with a homely space that I love to be in. I’m totally inspired by nature and my desk often looks like a nature table full of things I have collected whilst out walking. The shop space is in the old living room and its alcoves, fireplace and ornate bay window sets all the products off really well. It is an inspiring space to work in.

Is your art your main job?
It’s a challenge sometimes to balance my designing and making with running a shop which can easily take away from my creating time. But I do think of the shop itself as another means of my artistic expression so I guess the answer to that question is yes!

How did you get started?
When my children were teeny and time was limited I got myself a shared studio space and used every free moment while the children were in playschool to start some kind of creative business. I had lots of ideas while they were babies but no time to see them through. I stated producing handmade paper cut cards which were very intricate and did they well in the shops. I was always holding them up to the window to enjoy the silhouettes and a studio mate suggested that I made lights. I LOVED the idea instantly with a research and development grant from The Arts Council and much exploratitive cutting and sticking, it wasn’t long before my first lamp was born. I took my collection to the British Craft Trade Fair and got my first handful of stockists which I have been building on ever since. I now sell to around 40 craft galleries across the country (as well as a few abroad) and I sell directly through my website and Etsy shop and of course through Radiance.

What work will you be exhibiting at the Saltaire Arts Trail?
I’ll be bringing a collection of table lamps - some of my existing designs but I’m working on having my new collection of bird lamps finished (goodness me I’ve said it now so I HAVE to have them finished). My work usually features plants and flowers but recently I have been trying to capture some small birds too. I will be bringing one of my new limited edition ‘shelf lamps’ too. I visited the house I’m going to be exhibiting at on George Street last week and it has the perfect shelf in the living room to show it off! The house also has a beautiful arched window halfway up the stairs which will be perfect for displaying my seed pod window hanging. If anyone reading this interview sees anything on my website which they’d like me to bring then do make a request!!!

Do you work in any other mediums besides the work you will be exhibiting at the Arts Trail?
Well, I have become a writer recently too. When I was exhibiting at The Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair I met an editor from A&C Black publishers (now Bloomsbury) who spotted my passion for handmade lighting and asked if I’d like to write a book about it. Oh yes! After a year of researching contemporary craft lighting makers from across the globe and interviewing them about their lighting ‘aha moments’ my book ‘Illuminate’ is now finished and will be released in November this year. Very exciting indeed! You can have a sneak peek on the website.

Where else can we see and buy your work?
Here is a list of my stockists

What was it about the Saltaire Arts Trail that made you want to apply to exhibit?
I love the concept of open houses. I exhibited for a few years at a house in the Brighton Arts Festival which is where I was first introduced to the idea. It was always a lot of fun and suited my products as people can visualise them in their homes. I love that people get to look around some beautiful houses and look at inspiring art and craft at the same time. Perfect! I have a friend who comes to Saltaire every year and stays the whole weekend to immerse himself in the whole experience. He raved about it so much that he inspired me to apply!

What is unique about it and how does it differ from other events?
I think that Saltaire is a really interesting place of culture and heritage anyway. It’s wonderful to have the open house trail there too and get to see a little bit more behind the scenes as well as discovering work by lots of artists and makers. It’s a brilliant setting for such an event.

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