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Date published: March 03 2015

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New technology provides a great new challenge says Frank Englesby

The lighting industry is currently going through the biggest technology jump since the invention of the Edison light bulb.  For more than 125 years, it has been pretty much status quo in respect to what was used to illuminate our lives - the filament bulb. That bulb is now in its twilight years and a revolution in lighting has begun.

The first step was to make the filament bulb a villain to energy-conscious consumers. This has been a success. Legislation has passed in many countries to make the standard light bulb a thing of the past. The difference in energy consumption of a standard filament bulb and a LED (light emitting diode) is staggering in a watts per lumen standpoint.

One of the hurdles as a designer for a decorative lighting manufacturer is how to incorporate that difference into a distinctive and beautiful light source while controlling the cost of a new technology. The devil is in the detail. Yes, the price of LEDs has dropped but they are still 20 times that of a 50 cent filament bulb, and as a manufacturer, we have to abide by a host of new regulations which can easily mean  the success or failure of a new lighting concept.

To be compliant and pass energy guidelines, the use of retrofit bulbs is not an option. For the most part, we have to engineer and design our own LEDs. While that is not easy, it does create a great prospect  for me as a designer and master glassmaker, and that opportunity lies within the glass itself.

We will now be able to project light through very thick pieces of cast glass which completely hides the source of light and creates a sense that the glass is glowing by itself: to move light through glass like a fibre optic - lighting and illuminating an element well away from the light source itself. This allows me, as a designer, to draw even further from my 35 years as a studio glass artist and experiment with all types of glass processes that could not be used with conventional lighting sources.

My role is to develop unique glass elements in which we (as a manufacturer) can build lighting concepts from the inside out while keeping the focus on the glass as the core element. Technology now allows us to go even further in bringing this sculptured form to light. The restraints of a single common light source have been unchained. Now, we can produce all of our own glass in the studio setting, not bound by normal manufacturing constraints. We are able to work directly with a team of extremely talented people. Collaboration with our engineering staff is essential as we combine the innovation of new light sources with pioneering of new glass designs.

We look at this as a game of chess, where technology is challenging creativity. We enjoy combining a new light source with a very original glass technique and seeing the result - a beautiful, glowing natural form.

As we move forward, I believe you will see some of the most revolutionary designs in decorative lighting, each incorporating new technologies and innovations.

The challenge to all designers is not only to embrace the most significant change since the invention of the electric light, but to exploit it.

My personal challenge will be to fully engage the new era of lighting by using such a noble material as glass, opening our eyes to a completely new way of lighting our lives.

Author: Frank Englesby

Company: Fine Art Lamps

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