Alex Randall is not your typical lighting designer. In lieu of new materials, the British lighting designer raids salvage yards and taxidermy shops to create truly innovative and often creepy 'bespoke' lighting installations. Whether you find them magnetic or repellent—or, most likely, a seductive mixture of the two—you won't soon forget her Rat Lamp or Squirrel Wall Lights, both of which debuted at The Future Perfect in New York during ICFF.
Since her work raises more questions than it answers, Randall was gracious enough to supply some responses to my emailed queries. Her answers touch on everything from where she finds inspiration to her wildest recent commission: a flock of pigeon lights for a Kiwi client who wanted to "add drama with some taxidermy." For more of her work—and some truly wild photo shoots—check out the slideshow above.
Why I became a lighting designer:
I started making lighting after I finished my MA in professional writing. I was very aware of the boundaries between art and design and always felt the art I created should actually ‘do’ something. Lighting is such a fundamental part of our lives and such an important one design-wise I knew it was the subject I wanted to focus on.
Whether it be an object, a place, a person or even a piece of music, inspiration for me comes in all forms. It may not be ‘in vogue’ but more likely ‘in situ’ around us. Today I’ve been inspired by a dead swallow we found in the workshop, and the photographer (and my great friend) Claire Rosen.
Where I find my raw materials:
I never know when or where I’m going to find the next material. It could be in a salvage yard or a field. I try to use as many local resources as possible; one of my favorites is the Ministry of Defense’s reclamation in Plymouth where I find all sorts of bizarre instruments. I recently found a piece of old spitfire engine whilst I was hiking in the mountains of Wales which I’m attempting to recover.
I recently completed a piece for a client in New Zealand. He was designing a glass-house on the coast and wanted to add drama with some taxidermy. We created a huge flock of European Jays that take flight through the entrance of the building. It was great because he was so committed to the piece and really connected with it on an emotional level.
Most difficult commission:
Not so much a commission but one of the most difficult experiences with my work was during one of my photo shoots with Claire Rosen. We arranged to shoot at Bodmin Jail in Cornwall but when we arrived realized we were short on scaffolding. It took six hours to hang the flock of pigeons in the desired location; at which time I had to change into a silk dress and model in the ‘calmest’ way possible!
I love vast public spaces, especially those which can invoke emotions in people. For that reason I would say St Paul’s Cathedral.
What I'm working on now:
I’m currently working on a lighting scheme for a bar in Dalston, East London. It’s a fascinating but grimy area veined by Georgian canals where artists and old immigrants meet over a Turkish coffee or in the Caribbean street market. I’m also preparing for London Design Week at the end of September where I will be showing at Tent in the Truman Brewery.
In November I will be showing in San Francisco for the first time. The interior designer Ken Fulk has invited me to show within his studio and I can’t wait to unveil my pieces on the West Coast of the US. There will be a mini-retrospective of pieces including classics like ‘The Gramophone Chandelier’ and brand-new works including ‘The Carriers,’ a flock of pigeons carrying one large spiny ball of light.
If I wasn't a lighting designer I'd be:
Possibly a film maker. I write all the time; short stories, poems, scripts...I find it really helps me to express myself creatively in a hurry.