A Q&A with Michael McHale
How did you get into industrial-chic lighting design?
By complete accident. For most of my career, I was an entertainment lawyer working mostly on international television agreements (think Who Wants to be a Millionaire?). I guess I got sick of being around creative people but not doing any creative stuff myself. I had no outlet for this yearning until I decided that I could make a better light for my own apartment than what was available in stores. That was almost eight years ago.
What is the design and product process like for Michael McHale lighting?
Half the time, we come up with our own designs and the other half of the time, it is driven on by our customers who come up with custom ideas based on our design principles. We'll build something and then think, "Hey, this turned out great! Let's make it into a product." Then, we just build until we get it right. Often, there seems like there's only one way of making it and our job is to find that one way.
What do you love about designing lighting?
I create vessels for light. The object and the light it produces become one when it is done well. Lighting design is truly a playground that allows me to sculpt light right alongside sculpting the object. It needs to have a deeper meaning beyond the object itself. Light should serve us in ways we never imagined.
What are some of your favorite sources for inspiration/creativity?
Probably walking around New York City, where you get more of the heritage of our built environment than anywhere else I can think of outside of Europe. The theme of our work is to put a spotlight on the inherent beauty of ordinary things which our eyes are trained to ignore. There's plenty of ordinary, forgotten industrial and architectural, and domestic elements around here.
Where did you find inspiration for the Raw collection?
I originally made the Raw as part of a different project where other designers would add elements to its grid-like structure. After introducing it, we realized that a pipe-based fixture had too much "flavor" and needed to be more neutral. But, while we went back to the drawing board, we got requests for stripped down, masculine fixtures and the Raw Chandelier fit that purpose very nicely.
What is significant about the materials used in the Raw Chandelier?
Because we aren't using cystal like we do in other Michael Mchale lighting, the "decoration" of this piece is the cross-hatched galvanized steel cabling. An ordinary material, but used in a way which highlights its aesthetic qualities.
What is the best application of the Raw Chandelier - residential or commercial?
Man caves, pool tables, corporate offices and boardrooms, monkey cages, kitchens, hallways, bedrooms for difficult teenagers, anywhere where sophisticated people live who know what they like.
What trends are you personally seeing in modern lighting design?
A few years ago, the majority of people in the country would be wary of buying an artistic big-ticket item on the Internet without seeing it for themselves. These days, the great majority of our customers have not only not seen our products before they purchase, they don't know anyone who knows about them.
I think the willingness now of people to buy with confidence without seeing it in person has opened the market up considerably to artisans who make something fantastic but is not available at Design Within Reach or Home Depot. The opening up of a truly national market for high-end artistic furniture and lighting means much more choice and variety for the consumer and allows people like me to keep pushing the envelope artistically while maintaining a healthy customer base.