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INTERVIEW: Lighting Designer Georg Baldele | Chedva | February 15, 2012

Lights floating in the middle of a room can evoke many an association: magic, nostalgia, maybe even romance. Engineering, however, isn’t one of them. But design is forever a dot on the line between art and engineering. Some designers will shy away from this notion, but not Georg Baldele.

Baldele is an Austrian-born designer who studied in the Royal College of Arts in London. As the Protegee of legendary designer Ingo Maurer, the world got acquainted to his shining star, notably with his first famous lighting project, Fly Candle Fly. FCF is a grouping of real candles Georg Baldele hung from the ceiling so they look like they float mid-air. This work of his touched so many, that not only has it been requested for the most exclusive art, design and fashion events, but the general audience also got to fall in love with it when it illuminated the halls of Hogwarts in the first Harry Potter movie.

designer georg baldele

Designer Georg Baldele | Photos courtesy of Swarovski

You would think a designer who got this much recognition might be distant or off putting, but that could not be farther than reality. The Georg Baldele I got to meet and interview last week was one of the most lovely, genuine, ideological and passionate designers I was lucky enough to meet.

How would you define your style?

I think my work defines itself. As a designer, you start in a certain point, and he longer the process takes you learn more about yourself and your work and you start seeing a pattern that can be used as a definition. But when I work on a project I don’t actively think about my all-over style. I just find my inspiration and work with it.

And where do you find inspiration?

I studied engineering a few years before I went to to the RCOA and sometimes I find inspiration in the technical side of things. Most of the times I just gather a lot of inspiration from all over the place and then something happens, a light bulb goes on and I get my idea. I think the most important thing is to keep your mind open to the world, to art, to ideas. With time you develop a passion to a certain quality of life and design that becomes your inspiration and your style.

fly candle fly harry potter hogwarts lighting

Candles floating mid-air | Photos courtesy of Swarovski

Your work exudes much more warmth and emotion than some other contemporary lighting designers. Do you have an explanation for that?

One time when I was studying towards my M.A, a lady came to me and said she can’t believe my work wasn’t designed by a woman, because of the passion and emotion that it’s filled with. Of course, I took it as a compliment. I think the reason is that I was drawn to light since I was a child, and I always loved the light that comes from different corners of the room, the sort that creates a certain mood, and not just the overheads. It’s far more interesting to me. I’m dyslexic, and school was always a struggle for me, then I went to The Royal College of Art and I was shocked by how easy everything was! [chuckles, C.K.] Turns out 70 to 80 per cent of the RCOF students are dyslexic as well.

Where do you see yourself on the thin line between art and engineering?

It took me at least two or three years to shake of my “engineer mode” after leaving engineering college. I was lucky enough to meet people who were passionate about design and art and made me realize this is what I want to do. Only years afterwards I learned to control my inner engineer according to the different stages of the design process. It certainly helps me deal with engineers that tell me they can’t do this or that, I just explain how they, in fact, can! [laughs, C.K.] The artist inside the designer is exremely important but he always has to compromise, and sometimes it’s one compromise too many and you already can’t take it back, because you gave it to the company and it’s being produced… You have to learn to deal with the loss of control. Good thing is there’ll always be the next project…

Speaking of the next project, what’s your oppinion on the current pace of design?

Nowadays people always want something new, fresh, something they haven’t seen before. With information and media traveling so fast you sometimes feel you need to design to shock, while I still believe in designing the timeless, something that will resonate with the next generation as well. Where do all last year’s designs go? To the landfill, to flea markets? It’s a shame.

glitterbox swarovski georg baldele

Glitterbox lighting by Baldele, made for Swarovski Crystal Palace | Photos courtesy of Swarovski

What draws you to lighting, of all design mediums?

Lighting has an extra dimension. A painter relies on the light to complement his masterpiece, a room looks different with different kinds of lighting. There are so many different lights! Morning light, dusk, noon… I think outlawing the incandescent lamp is a crime. It should be protected by law as an historical item of our time. The incandescent lamp has made a revolution. And don’t get me started on all the wasted lamps that will go to landfills and end up as waste that will pollute the water we’re drinking. In my opinion, the whole thing is irresponsible and is more about money than the environment. The new lamps are more expensive, they only produce 10 per cent of the light an incandescent lamp produces and we are not aware of their affects yet. You know, cold light is known to induce depression. Maybe we’ll save some money on electricity but who knows how much we’ll end up spending on psychiatric medicine?

This lighting fixture by Baldele is gracing a ship | Photos courtesy of Swarovski

This is fascinating, but unfortunately we have to wrap this up. Do you have a favorite work of yours?

Having spent the last few days in Jerusalem, let’s say Fly Candle Fly. It goes so well with all the churches and religions and the ancientness of this city. Someone once told me: Candles have existed more than we can remember, but you’re the first to make them float. I like that connection between the old, the timeless and something else, design. You can feel the quest for some tranquility in Jerusalem, and I would love to see my candles in an historical building, contributing to that peace of mind.

You can find our short guide to lighting here (part II coming soon)

If you’re in Israel, the Swarovski design exhibit is open until March in the Yalon Showroom (Shenkar 13, Herzeliyah Pituach)

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2 comments to the post

  1. Igor says:

    Being from Austria myself I must admit I have not heard of him before. Thank you for the introduction, Chedva!

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