The Magic of Light

The work of industrial designer Lindsey Adelman radiates a subtle visual tension through exquisite lamps and objects

Nothing seemed predestined when Lindsey Adelman became a tastemaker in the design world. After studying English, she started her career as an editorial assistant at the Smithsonian Institution. While touring the fabrication department, a chance encounter with a woman carving french fries out of foam for an exhibit changed the course of Adelman’s professional path, and her life. Fascinated by the industrial designer’s work, Adelman returned to school to learn more about this discipline. At the Rhode Island School of Design, she discovered her enduring passion for light.

After 10 years working with other designers including David Weeks, with whom she founded the design collaborative Butter in 2000, Adelman took the plunge and launched her eponymous studio in her hometown of New York City. “Our studio’s signature aesthetic was born with the release of our very first product: the Branching Bubble chandelier, which combines the organic nature and blown glass with more rational, machined components,” she says. “Since then, we have explored that visual tension throughout a range of products and disciplines.”

Being an artist, always trying new things and working with intangibles motivates Adelman daily. While lighting design is at the core of her work, she also creates other objects and products, such as concrete tiles, wallpaper and jewelry. Adelman has a team of about 40 people and a small network of local artisans both in Manhattan and, more recently, in downtown Los Angeles, where she opened an 8,000-square-foot showroom and fabrication facility. She experiments with a range of materials to maximize the effect of lighting and capture the ephemeral beauty of nature in a sensual way. Sculptural and elegant, her blown-glass and brass chandeliers now adorn a great number of homes, hotels and commercial projects worldwide.

“THE INFLUENCE OF TRADITIONAL JAPANESE AESTHETICS—WITH ITS EMPHASIS ON MINIMALISM, DISCIPLINE OF LINE AND THE RIGOR OF HANDCRAFT—SHAPED MICHIKO’S PERSPECTIVE EARLY AND CONTINUES TO GUIDE HER APPROACH TO GLASS TODAY.”

“Our globes are made in New York City by Japanese-born glass artist Michiko Sakano and her team,” Adelman says. “The influence of traditional Japanese aesthetics—with its emphasis on minimalism, discipline of line and the rigor of handcraft—shaped Michiko’s perspective early and continues to guide her approach to glass today.”

Along with her former business partner and mentor David Weeks, the pioneering Adelman has paved the way for New York City’s boom of young designers in the field. Today, she is renowned on the international scene, with Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen and film director Nancy Meyers among her prestigious clients. Some of her pieces were exhibited at the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York and others were designed exclusively for Nilufar Gallery in Milan, which promotes her work on a global scale.

For Adelman, designing and producing lighting is “easy” in comparison with furniture, for example. It’s also “fun,” “spontaneous” and gives her a lot of “freedom.” At the same time, the evolution of technology challenges and motivates her, and her team, to constantly invent new ways of doing things. “We worked closely with local machine shops to engineer and fabricate each part in metal,” she says. “We are driven by a desire to expect more from the hardware while using an economy of material and energy.”

All of Adelman’s creations, which are born from her keen observation of the natural and human worlds, captivate not only with their perfect proportions but also, and above all, because they embody an understated harmony between spontaneity and rationality, handcrafted elements and machine-made parts, pure beauty and necessary functionality. No matter how one describes her—designer-artist or artist-designer—Adelman is a virtuoso of light.

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