The New York lighting designer joins forces with the socially progressive platform Colony to debut a new collection.
FOR THE PAST decade, Bec Brittain has carved out a niche for herself. Navigating New York’s often saturated lighting design scene with a sense of autonomy, she has bypassed the industrial-chic aesthetic and overly-ornate brass-coated sconce trend. With collections entitled ‘SHY’ and ‘Resolute’, the industry maverick continuously pushes the limits of the medium, whilst still relying on a mastery of structural restraint, detail-oriented precision, and technological innovation.
Though unfussy in form, Brittain’s luminaires are often subtly allusive to cultural history and physical phenomena. The designer draws from her training in industrial design and architecture, but also philosophy. Each new series is derived from deep conceptual rumination and intensive technical explorations.
From workshops in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and, most recently, Long Island City, Brittain has become an established figure in the city’s design community of independent makers. With a hands-on ethos, she maintains a small-scale studio and favours a lateral business model that facilitates a more egalitarian and connected form of exchange. Every member of her tight-knit team has a say in the various stages of development and fabrication. This working structure is reflective of the designer’s commitment to several social causes, in particular racial equality. Brittain’s new ‘Aries Rising Capricorn’ collection materialised out of 2020, a year not only marked by COVID-19 but also by the systemic social inequities that the pandemic and subsequent economic crisis exposed.
“Last year was a real catalyst for making sure that how I run the studio is reflective of my personal beliefs. It’s no longer just about production,” the designer explains, “We formalised our hiring practices and ensured fair wages.” She continues, “2020 also made clear how important it is to improve other people’s quality of life. By being more vocal about how everyone’s wellbeing is important, I have felt so much more support from my team. We’ve done real community building. The humility that comes out of this has made my work different.”
Formed using coloured acrylic rods, these new bespoke pendants take on a more expressive and hand-drawn quality than previous collections. “This collection stemmed from a sketch I did which was inspired by one of my boyfriend’s drawings of an overflowing urn,” Brittian describes. “I knew I wanted to make lines that were personal to me, [within which] you could see my mark. I naturally went to fibre optics – [to find] some combination of a glowing kid’s toy and Paul Cocksedge’s ‘Pole’ light. While I initially considered borosilicate tubes, I moved to acrylic rods, as it enabled everything to be more immediate and casual. I didn’t want these forms to be laboured at all, nor did I want them to be designed. I wanted to be able to decide in the moment what felt right and to let go of perfection. The acrylic rods allow me to bend, twist and play. It’s a multitude of small, local, hands-on decisions that come together as the larger composition, similar to a drawing.”
As part of her aim of working with community-minded businesses, the designer debuted this collection with New York design incubator and gallery Colony. Established in 2014, this multifaceted design platform follows a similar cooperative model and seeks to create a support network between the talents it represents. Brittain joins a roster that includes such illustrious practices as Vonnegut Kraft, Phaedo, and Flat Vernacular.
“Colony was established with a grounding in societal issues [for] the greater good,” founder Jean Lin states. “Brittain has proven over time to be a force, not just as a lighting designer but also [as] a voice towards social and racial justice. We share the conviction that our businesses should represent an effort towards a more inclusive industry, making work that will last generations. Brittain joining Colony reinforces my belief that if we create businesses that value all measures of success – commercial, personal, societal, communal – we can build an industry that not only thrives but contributes to a better world.”
Occupying Colony’s crystalline Canal Street loft, the ‘Aries Rising Capricorn’ series joins a rotating display of well-crafted furnishings, textiles, and accessories. Brittain will continue creating these illuminated sculptures well into the near future.