While Stanley Wilson had worked in the industry all his life, his vintage industrial lighting passion (which became Historic Lighting in 2008) was just a hobby, mostly played out on eBay. It would have stayed that way, too, if he and partner Sophie Gollop hadn’t been so good at throwing parties on the roof terrace they had built outside their flat in Dalston, east London. Friend-of-a-friend Sharon Stammers (who ran the Professional Lighting Designers’ Association) put invites to one of their parties out on her mailing list, and within a days they had been asked to get involved in all kinds of stuff – the Levi’s flagship store on Regent Street, for example. And here they are. Historic Lighting products are not just found in smart homes and smart magazines, they can also be found on stage at The National in Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein, and Hollywood beckons with a very exciting major film project this year.
Stanley, describe your studio/workspace We spent our first 12 months working in the one-bed flat in east London where we lived. Everything (client meetings, prototyping, admin, manufacture, packing and dispatch) took place on a single kitchen table. With hindsight it was a bit mad – dangerous even – but we and our clients remember these times fondly. The quizzical look on our neighbours’ faces as pallets of lighting components were delivered on the pavement outside, broken up and carried in box by box, will stay with me forever. Our current studio/workshop feels cavernous by comparison.
What’s on your desk right now? Laptop, vernier calipers, loads of old lightbulbs, some good-quality speakers, and too many half-built lighting samples.
Before you begin a new design, you must… Empty your inbox. I wish I followed my own rules, so do my clients. I get very distracted, often by the small things.
You know a design is a success when… The doubters eat their words.
The thing about being an independent designer/maker is… My origins in lighting are pretty unglamorous – I was sweeping floors and coiling cable in a lighting rental warehouse until I was 21. Everything I get out of the industry these days feels like a bonus. They said I’d never amount to much but they were only half right.
What’s your favourite piece of design? Hands down the British welfare state. That we allow it to be dismantled is one of life’s great mysteries.
Aside from product design, I am pretty good at… Football.
What music do you listen to while you design? Sophie’s iPod, so plenty of (very) old skool garage.
In another life, you would be… Me in a thousand years time.
What other designer/makers should we look out for? I honestly don’t know. I’m a wilful and solitary sort of bloke. M-G Hemus is doing great things at the re-launched Trumans Brewery, but I would say that because he is one of my few friends and I like beer.
What book is by your bed? Alan Bennett. Been there since 2009. My resolution for 2011 is to finish it. He is an incredible bloke and my favourite writer.
Describe the perfect weekend. As much family, wine and song as we can scrape together, and maybe a bonfire if it’s not raining.
Any claims to fame? A future claim to fame: We’ve recently got involved in lighting for a major Hollywood film, I can’t be any more specific but if the film does what we think it will do, 2012 will be a very big year for us.
What can’t you live without? Vernier calipers. The first week together was filled with anger that I’d lived half a life without them.