Lighting designer Volker Haug attributes part of his success to his years spent as a hairdresser. Initially training in Stuttgart before moving to Berlin, his years spent with clients in his chair, are recalled as invaluable. “You are always talking to customers and getting to know exactly what they want,” says Haug. Now with 14 staff working from his East Brunswick studio, Volker Haug’s lights have graced numerous homes, offices, cafes and restaurants, both in Australia and abroad. One of his ‘OMG’ (Oh My God) lights can be seen at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), Ian Potter Centre. While Haug’s studio on the first floor is more akin to a gallery (white epoxy floors and white walls), the ground floor is given over to the manufacturing arm of his business, founded almost 13 years ago.

Although he is self-taught as a lighting designer, Haug’s team includes a number of industrial designers. “It’s very much a collaboration here. We have regular brainstorming meetings, and move forward on the strongest ideas,” says Haug, who can trace his interest for lighting back to when he was a child. “I always bought light globes with my pocket money, particularly ones that were more unusual,” he adds.

The exposed light globe remains pivotal to Volker Haug’s repertoire of lights. One of the first designs that still continue to be produced is the ‘Wow Shade’, a spun aluminium shade with a customised stenciled interior. Originally offered in 30 different patterns, but now refined to 10, the initial design was inspired by one of Haug’s hairdressing clients, wanting to create a bespoke feel to her home.

“Initially (working from his garage at home) I created a series of seven different lamps, one for each room. But then it seemed one was lost without the other,” says Haug, who created a cascading set of lights above the client’s dining table. The OMG shade, a light that initially helped brand Haug’s work, is also as popular now as when it was first designed in 2006. Referred to as a ‘crushed pizza base’, the anodised aluminium disks were initially second-hand industrial light shades.

Varying in size from a few disks to almost 60, as in case with the light at the NGV, each disk can be coloured to suit a client’s interior. “It’s still seen as quite an eclectic design,” says Haug, who is constantly challenged in finding sufficient ‘raw materials’ to keep up with demand.

Haug’s ‘Cable Jewellery’ lights, such as ‘Chain Chain Chain’, ‘Missing Link’ and ‘Chain on U’, not only capture the essence of light, with an exposed light bulb or two, but also his slightly irreverent, you could say, German sense of humour. “Design should be playful, as well as functional. A light doesn’t have to be complex, but it should have a strong point of difference,” says Haug, who has attracted an enviable client list of architects and designers, both in Australia and overseas.

“My largest following is the United States, the United Kingdom and France,” says Haug, who will be exhibiting his lights in Milan for the first time this year. Sometimes, Volker Haug’s lights initially appear quite simple, as if ‘Why didn’t I come up with this idea?’ His ‘Floor Jewellery Lamp’ for example, a collaboration with architect Sean Van der Velden which greets clients upon arrival to his studio, is simply a metal tube that has been bent into either an ‘S’ or a ‘U’ shape.

The brass tube has been blackened to create a graphic outline against a white wall. “We usually start with one concept and branch out to create a family of lights,” says Haug, pointing out the ‘wall and table jewellery’ that forms part of the same collection. Industrial designer Fletcher Barns, for example, initiated the ‘U-chain series’.

Other collections are given slightly quirky names. There the ‘Step and Kick’ series of lights (circa 2015) that started with a ‘side step’ and a ‘side kick’, referring to moves on the dance floor. And then there’s the ‘Big Kick’, a series of brass arms with exposed light bulbs attached to each ‘branch’. “These lights have been particularly popular above kitchen benches, both in domestic and commercial settings,” says Haug.

Although Haug’s design team regularly brainstorms new lighting concepts, Haug occasionally reaches out to the market place, asking architects and designers to identify gaps in their lighting needs. The ‘Anton’, made from three finishes- polished gun metal, glazed ceramic or cast aluminium -was designed as a wall light almost appearing like concrete. Simply conceived with an exposed light bulb at its centre, the Anton is now being developed into a pendant light. “The feedback was there were few wall lights on the market, particularly of this size, that didn’t overwhelm the interior,” says Haug, cupping the 180-millimetre-wide disk in his hands.

Manufacturing in Australia has become the exception rather than the norm. However, Haug still prefers to keep an eye on things and do the majority of manufacturing in house. “We outsource a few elements, predominantly locally, but all the finishing is done here, where we can have control over production,” says Haug. In one of the small rooms downstairs there’s a workbench with a row of marble disks waiting to be polished. Although one would expect these to be light components, they are bookends. Each disk will be attached to a brass disk that will give the appearance of a shadow line. Candelabras are also on Haug’s agenda, using sledge hammered aluminium tubes that will be individually hand painted. “I’m always mindful of producing something that doesn’t already exist and that’s also not easily copied, and that’s before you start thinking about names and entire families of lights,” he adds.

Like a film director who seems to know exactly which angle to shoot each scene, Haug is intuitively aware of what makes some lights compelling, while others simply create a glow in a space. “Sometimes, it can be just the smallest detail that catches your eye,” says Haug, referring to the ‘Only U’ wall light, two exposed bulbs supported on a curved arm attached to the wall at only one point. “It’s almost like light hanging in the balance,” he adds.

Volker Haug can be contacted on 9387 1803


Text by Stephen Crafti.

Lifestyle & Design

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