Iluka London, a design studio led by Sarah Webb and Daniel Harder, creates bespoke lamps using only the finest materials – one of which happens to be wood all the way from Australia.
Their creations feature a base made from raw timber that’s beautifully encased in glass. Looking to highlight the “beauty of natural wood,” Webb and Harder use this technique to let us observe and admire the patterns and textures of the wood grain.
Think of their designs as specimens taken from nature, now made functional in your home.
According to Harder, the studio’s name – ‘iluka’ – is an Aboriginal word that means ‘close to the sea’. Amusingly, the word is also the name of an Australian coastal town where he grew up, and which happens to have the “most beautiful wood in the world.”
We recently had a chance to chat with Webb and Harder, despite their busy schedules. Check out our interview with them below as they talk about design, creativity, and sustainability.
Please tell us more about yourselves. How did you get into lamp design?
“Before we started Iluka London we worked in interior and graphic design. We both shared a love for product design and the beauty of wood and always wanted to create a tactile product that we could share with the world.
“We had taught ourselves the amazing versatility of resin by working on flow painting resin art in our spare time for a few years so we began by experimenting with wood and resin and found that combining these two contrasting materials we could create something quite unique.
“The natural edges of the timbers we sourced were normally carved or smoothed off by other woodworkers, so we wanted to present them in their natural state to people that wouldn’t have normally seen its beauty. We moved on to experiments with acrylic as it gave the clearest effect, and the result is optically clearer than glass!”
Why do you specifically like to use wood from the Australian coast? What makes the material so special?
“Although there are some other woods that we use (like English Elm for example), we have found that Australia is home to some stunning hardwoods that complimented the work we were doing with the lamps. They offer a variety of rich colours, wood grain and texture like no other in the world.
“We also have an important connection with Australia, and we named the company after a small coastal town near where I grew up and we actually got engaged there while visiting last year too!”
Do you also work with other materials?
“Yes, we are constantly developing new ideas and experimenting with new materials. Recently, we have been working with resin and feathers which have created some really interesting pieces and also have plans to introduce hand cut glass into some lamps. We have been welding metals to create frames for furniture also.”
Let’s talk about your creative process. How do you come up with your stunning designs? Where do you turn to for inspiration?
“We love to sketch and brainstorm any place or time of the day! Inspiration can come from the most unlikely places, and we find that wherever we go, we are always on the lookout. Due to the type of wood we work with, the key design decisions affecting the end result are mostly done at the bandsaw in our workshop.
“After we carefully source each piece of wood, we will assess it, look at it from every angle and (normally after much debate) make the first cut and plan the lamp from there. It isn’t until you slice into a piece of wood that you can appreciate its full potential and it does require some creative imagination to predict what it will look like as the final product!
“Each lamp takes a few weeks to create, from sourcing the wood, cutting to size, pouring and curing the acrylic resin, machining and polishing to finishing with the lamp components which also need their own patina depending on what we think would suit it best. Sometimes clients will also select what finish and flex colour they would prefer. Each piece is bespoke and one of a kind.”
Are the lamps sustainable?
“Yes, we get all our timber from reputable and sustainable sources. Sometimes we will even use previously felled woods that would have just been left to sit there and rot away.
“With that said, some species of wood are in trouble. English elm for example, has succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease in the 1970s, killing off 90 percent of the trees.
“They are hopefully making a comeback these days, with resistant strains being developed and we feel honoured to use each piece in our work, knowing it has an interesting story behind its journey.”
Lastly, what’s next for you?
“We are currently working on table designs, wall lights, and some other exciting pieces that for now will have to stay top secret – watch this space! If only our production could keep up with the ideas in our heads!
“We will be launching a new collection of lamps soon and look forward to designing and building more types of furniture for many years to come.”