THE ARTISAN FOUNDER

003. Lam Lighting

THE ARTISAN FOUNDER
On finding a new way of living and keeping a craft alive.

Master Ceramicist, Julie Lam, has been working with porcelain for nearly 30 years. David Lam has been designing lights and managing large corporate lighting brands for almost as long.

The events of 2020 pulled everything into sharp focus and with the help of their long-term friend and marketing professional, Hannah Thompson, they abandoned their corporate roles to devote themselves to a more wholesome and ethically driven way to live.

Here’s their brave story of a leap from secure jobs to nervously awaiting that first order.

Identifying a gap in the market for beautiful, sustainable, luxury lighting, they focused on purity of materials and simplicity in form. Between the three of them, they had the three most fundamental skill sets required to start the company; the design, the making, and the marketing.

The company launched their first collection of raw porcelain lights in February 2021 and has been warmly embraced by the new, more eco-conscious market.

purity of material and simplicity in form

The perfect team.

Julie heads up the Ceramic Studio, a team of four Ceramicists and Studio Technicians.

We take raw Limoges Porcelain, which has been quarried from a small area in France, world-renowned for its quality of clay, and turn it into slip (the process of slowly adding water over a period of days to turn the clay into liquid form).

We then slipcast our ceiling roses and shades from our own original, hand-sculpted molds.

David began his career as a Fashion Photographer, working with Couturiers in Paris and many world-leading fashion brands.

His photographs were published regularly in the leading fashion magazines including Vogue and Tatler.

He later went on to create his own marketing company, which is where he met Hannah Thompson – a fellow photographer and marketing professional.

Between them they managed the brand for some of the countries largest lighting companies, which is where their passion for lighting design began.

Day to day, Hannah works on every aspect of marketing from the website and social media to PR and the photography.

Doing everything ourselves in-house has been absolutely fundamental in allowing us to express the brand faithfully.

Crafting the perfect workspace.

We converted a derelict barn into a modern Ceramic Studio.

This sounds like we had a grand budget but we literally rolled up our sleeves and did every aspect of the conversion ourselves over a period of 8 weeks.

We now have a large, bright space divided into drying rooms, kiln rooms, a workshop and a small showroom.

The surrounding area is still a working farm and depending on the season, you can see wild water voles in the adjacent stream or Spring lambs that graze directly under the window.

We even have red kites swooping overhead which is a really exciting thing to see – not only because of how impressive these large birds of prey are, but because they were once endangered and seeing them return in large numbers brings a sense of optimism.

Music is always playing quietly and the kettle doesn’t get a chance to cool down.

A small but perfectly formed collection.

We have worked in lighting design for over two decades, designing lights for large companies and learning what customers actually want, listening to customers and interior designers and hearing their niggles with existing popular designs and solving those issues.

We have created a small collection inspired by the most popular and classic designs of the twentieth century drawing from industrial factory shades to timeless silhouettes.

What makes them new and gives them their own inherent value is the small design tweaks, inspired by classic arts from the world of ballet, literature and painting.

We have created all of our lights in our signature, unglazed porcelain, with a focus on purity of material and simplicity in form. All with the signs of a hand at work and not a machine.

Everything about slipcasting and working with porcelain is about timing and patience.

Clay will not be rushed and you must work with it at its own rhythms to produce anything of beauty.

From the moment we begin to create slip to having a finished light can take over 12 days. We invite visitors to see us making the lights and the sense of calm and peacefulness is something that is often commented on.

Clay will not be rushed

Memorable moments.

The apprehension at the very beginning, was realising that to make this work we had to concentrate solely on this and that there was no ‘B Plan’.

Opening our showroom in our second year and having industry press and friends around us felt like a celebration of a milestone with a solid foundation of consistent sales, having the physical showroom with our full collection on display made everything feel real.

A difficult moment which now seems irrelevant, but at the time was almost devastating was when we had just launched and with days going past without a sale, our first order was for a single lightbulb that was then cancelled.

Apprehensions were running at such a high level after spending 18 months developing the lights and building the website and also incurring some significant debt.

Thankfully, within hours after that, we received our first order and very quickly they began to come in regularly.

Another highlight has been seeing how the interior magazines have really embraced what we are doing.

Understanding our genuine ethical approach and championing our lights as something precious and beautiful.

We have had several large features that have placed us among our contemporaries.

Our Values.

We set out to find an alternative to corporate life.

We wanted to make a company that was ethical throughout, not just in the materials and eco-sensitive designs, but also in every aspect of the business.

We want to continue to have a humanistic approach, putting well-being first for the people who work with us and to everybody that we come into contact with.

We know how naive this sounds, but with a few years behind us, we have managed to be commercially viable and we are determined to continue with these core values as we progress.

There is no doubt that this reduces a profit margin, however, our measure of success is not purely about money. There are cheaper materials, packaging and components that we could use, but this is a false cost-saving because it’s the environment and other workers that pay the difference.

Porcelain never rusts, it never tarnishes or ages. We hope to create lights that counter fast-fashion and embrace slow design, lasting for a lifetime and beyond.

Ceramics is one of the most ancient crafts and handmade ceramics is almost disappearing as a commercial skill set in England.

We are already employing local craftspeople and ceramicists and we hope that as we grow, in our small way, we will be keeping the craft alive.

The road ahead.

Wisely and slow is something that we have learned to embrace.

We hope to grow as an ethical company, expanding our range gradually with worthwhile lighting designs and solutions and to be part of what feels like an emerging set of artisan companies with the same values and energies as us.

IMAGES ©Lam Lighting 2024
THE ARTISAN FOUNDER

For us, what stands out about Lam Lighting is a product that is so expertly crafted yet so relaxed in its style thanks to the raw softness of the clay.

It’s rare to find a product that can be both an exquisite finishing touch for the grandest of grand designs, yet also light up a dark corner of a humble country cottage.

This is a shining example of where craftsmanship wins over mere designer labels.

Thank you Julie, David and Hannah for sharing your story!

Stay with us for more stories of artisans like Julie, David, and Hannah, who navigate the challenges of our times with creativity, resilience, and an unwavering commitment to making a difference—one light at a time.

-Lyndsey

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