Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Interview - Volker Haug

Volker Haug

Volker Haug is one Melbourne lighting designer to watch - and if you haven't heard his name yet, get ready to be hearing a lot more of it. After starting his professional life in landscape gardening and then hairdressing, (all the while tinkering with lighting design on the side), Volker's work is finally making waves both here an overseas. Interestingly, it was an article posted by The Coolhunter late last year that was the launching pad for Volker's current success... he literally went from creating his pieces by hand out of his garage here in Richmond, to receiving orders and inquiries from as far as the US and China! Yay for design blogs!

Volker's designs strike the perfect balance between raw minimalism and the unexpected. His work uses simple, clean lines, but combines this slick aesthetic with punchy colours and kooky shapes... classy yet full of personality. I love seeing design that it completely unlike anything else on the market, and Volker's work is truly unique. I'm convinced his pieces will become very well known very soon indeed!

Also, I think it's worth mentioning that Volker Haug is not just a great lighting designer, he's also a great interviewee! He responded to my request for an interview in lightening-fast time, sent me the best photos (and lots of them!), and supplied great shots of himself (very rare for a designer!). He was also super friendly :) Thanks so much Volker!


single antlers

Apparently you are a trained hairdresser, and self-taught designer… which is an interesting basis for what you’re doing now! Tell me a little about your background - what path led you to what you’re doing now?

I was always into lighting from very early age on - from flicking switches on and off to the degree that my parents had to tape them down.

I electrocuted myself at age 7 - maybe a spark for life?!

After school I didn’t really know what to do as ‘lighting design’ is not really a recognised job, so I didn’t know how to approach that subject. Instead I became a landscape gardener, then a hairdresser, which lasted for 15 years.

I kept up lighting design as a hobby through the years, which grew stronger and stronger, and one day I met Geoffrey Mance - the most approachable and amazing lighting designer, who saw lighting very similarly to myself. I got a job with him, and started my own business after 1.5 years.

It’s been said in the press that the turnaround moment for your lighting design business came when The Coolhunter website promoted your work late last year, generating a lot of interest both here and overseas. Is this accurate? How would you say that singular event has propelled your business? What other factors have contributed to your success?

That’s correct, god save the coolhunter!

As the coolhunter is one of the biggest national and international design blogs I’ve been told, word (and picture) spreads far, all over the world really. I had at least 20 media enquiries - the most random ones at times like Greek marieclaire, Argentinean playboy as well as a Chinese airline magazine to name just a few.

I also go a few jobs out of that including lighting for a fine dining restaurant in San Francisco!

Other factors I think are the fact that what I do is often seen as a bit crazy and ‘different’ (as much as I hate the word) and that’s seems to be what people go for, lucky me!

table jewellery

What were your initial goals when you started making lights? Were you ever intending for your designs to become commercially distributed and for it to become your full-time job?

In my dream world I always wanted it to be a real full time job and career, and finally its heading that way, which I still can’t really believe at times.

I still get nervous when people want to distribute my designs especially commercially because its exposed to anyone and everyone then - I guess designs always reflect your personality but I guess in time I’ll get used to it.

Which designers, artists or creative people are you inspired by?

My ultra guru is Ingo Maurer - the most amazing German lighting designer. I’d love to meet him some time.

Besides him I adored Geoffrey Mance as I mentioned earlier. Basically I admire anyone who is unique & creative and can make a living out of that!

4 arm antler

Where else do you find inspiration – travel, books, film, the internet etc?

Yes travel is number one, have done quite a bit already but, as you do, you only ever realise that the world is sooo much bigger than we initially think.

I love films, especially art house, don’t get the chance to see enough films but can be very inspired through the right ones.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

At the moment I’m spending too much time in front of the computer answering e mails, book keeping, and following up on things, which I generally don’t mind - but all in reason.

Once I’m down in the studio I love it and don’t ever want to see daylight again.

What are you most proud of professionally?

Hmm, I guess me being me and seeming to have a good connection and networking ability with all sorts of different people, which enriches my life in both business and private relationships.

What's the best thing about your job?

Being my own boss

And the worst?

Being my own boss ;-)

What would be your dream project?

A project that involves working with other designers that are on the same wave length as me.

I think you can only go so far being on your own and it’s a healthy thing being involved with other creative people who will mutually bring out the best in oneself.

2 arm antler

What are you looking forward to – professionally or personally?

Personally: I’m looking forward to be able to draw a wage from my business which might happen sometime in the near future if things keep going as well as they are at present.

I think that will be a big reward for the hard yards one puts in and is something that continues you to keep going.

Professionally: I’d like to (and have to) move into a bigger workshop as my current one is far too small for me as it is.

That would help as well feeling more professional and being able to employ people in the future.

nuts for you - clear

Melbourne Questions –

Where do you shop for the tools of your trade?

Many of the hot things are imported from Germany.

I also LOVE Bunnings (I’ve got a trade card)!!!

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

Oh I LOVE eating out, so its hard, one of my most favorite meals in Melbourne is the Tom Cooper pizza at ‘pizza meine liebe’ in Northcote, the best pizza in town for sure!

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

Some people who will read this answer will know where, for other it’s a mystery! ;-)

Melbourne’s best kept secret?

… should stay secret!

Wow pendants - side view and inside views

For many more images of Volker's incredible work please do visit his website. His work is stocked at The National Design Centre at Fed Square, Tongue and Groove (84 Smith st, Collingwood), Village Idiom (34 Anderson St Yarraville) and at OBJX in Brisbane.


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