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Behind The Design: LZF

Behind The Design: LZF

In Valencia, Mariví Calvo and Sandro Tothill, proprietors of LZF,
are creating wood veneer lamps that cleverly envelop light.

When Spanish painter Mariví Calvo met Australian musician Sandro Tothill in the early 1990s, they ignited a creative spark. Both are passionate, spirited and curious; on one particular night, while playing with wood veneers, Mariví and Sandro succeeded in enveloping light. The year was 1994, and LZF was born.

LZF might best be described as a company with an immense appreciation for wood, light, creativity, craftsmanship and design. In its (almost) 25 years to date, LZF has built an international reputation for making lights that are innovative and inventive. Meticulously handmade, every light leaves LZF’s busy Valencia-based factory ready to illuminate a certain little corner or some larger space, out there in the world.

LZF founders Mariví Calvo and Sandro Tothill.

LZF founders Mariví Calvo and Sandro Tothill.

Meet Mariví (affectionately called BB) and Sandro, LZF’s intriguing co-founders.

For people who don’t know LZF, how would you describe the company?

BB: LZF is an original company that designs and makes unique objects. We collaborate with artists and designers who want to delve into LZF’s world, creating products that will not leave you feeling indifferent.

Sandro: We discovered the translucent capabilities of wood veneer in lighting design and worked hard to build not only imaginative designs, but also the technical ability to stabilize wood veneer. In doing so we created Timberlite®, our patented veneer finish that transforms veneer—a delicate material—into something that is exceptionally flexible and easy to manipulate. It enables us to craft an inspired collection of natural wood veneer lights.

The LZF logo has a certain devilish aspect. Can you explain the logo’s significance?

BB: Literally, Lucifer is ‘bringer of light’ and in Spanish “light” is written as 'luz'. It worked as a play on words [LZF was originally named 'Luzifer']. Our first logo was an imp with a plug for a tail—he was mischievous and devilishly cheeky.

Sandro: Our logo has morphed over the years with the development of our branding. Today, there are just the little horns over the Z in LZF.

Image courtesy of LZF.

Image courtesy of LZF.

What fascinates you most about wood veneer as a design material?

BB: Wood veneer is a natural material, unique in its beauty, ancestral, generous, captivating, surprising and kind; it even makes you smile. The adaptability of veneer makes it possible for us to play with both organic forms and geometric shapes.

To start with, the wood veneer is a very fragile matter. It is fascinating how we then take care of it, treating the veneer with Timberlite® in order to achieve a flexible material that is easy to work with. Our highly skilled artisans drill, punch, cut, bend and fold the veneers by hand.

Image courtesy of LZF.

Image courtesy of LZF.

How do you approach the design of a new lamp—what is your creative process?

Sandro: We work with a core group of designers as well as a number of external collaborators. We have one-off collaborations with people from the arts, architecture and fashion—this creates many exciting reactions. The best designs are then selected and prototyped.

What qualities, in your opinion, make a successful lighting design?

BB: Essentially, a light that achieves its function and provides a special, original design.

Image courtesy of LZF.

What motivates you—how do you nourish your passion for design and creativity?

BB: It’s an insatiable curiosity to find and achieve new expressions and experiences. It’s about inviting collaborations with people who educate and enrich us with their experiences, knowledge and viewpoints.

Sandro: Curiosity is certainly one of the main driving factors in our motivation to do what we do.

LZF was founded by a Spanish painter and an Australian musician. How has your relationship influenced the company’s development?

BB: Ever since its formation, LZF has work together with musicians, writers, painters and many more indescribable creatives. With them we have created a brand that not only sells a product, but also communicates a special philosophy—one others might be interested in joining or hearing more about.

Sandro: My own and BB’s cultural origins gave us the opportunity to complement each other and work together. We work very hard and have never tired of one another. Our different art forms guaranteed a creative edge, spurring our curiosity and helping us develop in this field of lighting design.

Image courtesy of LZF.

LZF will celebrate its 25th birthday in 2019. What are you looking forward to next year and beyond?

BB [With a wonderfully coy response]: We’re working with a very special architect, someone we admire. We can’t yet reveal the name—hopefully you can wait until the end of the year and discover our new proposals. For followers of LZF, we’re also working with some new materials. Just have patience as December will arrive quickly.

Sandro: I’m proud that we got to today. Indeed, today is like the beginning of a whole new chapter in the company and it’s exciting for us. It’s a time to consolidate these last 25 years and we’ll be doing some pretty interesting things going forward. Watch this space.