Designer to Know: Ridgely Studio Works

Lighting designer Zac Ridgely creates sculptural fixtures out of unexpected materials—from crushed glass and spun steel to golden aluminum.
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Discarded shards of tempered glass and random bicycle parts might not seem like the best materials to create lighting with, but Zac Ridgely thinks otherwise. The Toronto-based designer and founder of Ridgely Studio Works is known for breathing new life into broken and abandoned scraps, transforming them into functional works of art.

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His appreciation for unusual materials began at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver, where he studied sculpture and painting and resorted to the occasional dumpster dive to find exotic components for his works. After graduating, however, he had difficulty "selling sculpture for sculpture’s sake," he says. That is, until he had his own lightbulb moment: If he combined sculpture with a necessary function, like lighting, it became more consumer-friendly. 

A sculpture by Zac Ridgely

A sculpture by Zac Ridgely

Since the studio’s inception in 2001, Ridgely’s approach to lighting design has been mostly experimental, even whimsical—think chandeliers made out of silver cutlery. But he also creates more refined pieces, like his most recent project, the Gem Series, which centers on spherical hand-blown glass diffusers pierced by a sleek brass rod. Whatever the style, the new ideas keep flowing. "We’re constantly creating," he says. "There’s no end to inspiration."

Learn why Ridgely despises 3D printing in our Q&A below.

Hometown: Toronto, Canada

Describe what you make in 140 characters. I create bespoke sculptural light fixtures.

What's the last thing you designed? A modular light fixture that uses a hand blown glass diffuser and can be configured to suit its environment.

Do you have a daily creative ritual? Coffee and sketching.

How do you procrastinate? Shopping or scrolling on Amazon.

What everyday object would you like to redesign? Why? Flush mount light fixtures. Almost every home has several of them, and typically they are so bland that one does not even consider them in the design process.

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Who are your heroes (in design, in life, in both)? In design, Ingo Maurer as he was a visionary and was not afraid to push the boundaries between art and design. I love work that straddles the two disciplines and challenges the way people look at things.

What skill would you most like to learn? To speak a second language.

What is your most treasured possession? A watch my wife gave me for my 40th birthday.

What's your earliest memory of an encounter with design? My father was an architect and would bring home his architectural models for me to play with. These experiences provided me with early exposure to the concepts of architecture, space, and volume.

Ridgely's Luster Medallion sculpture

Ridgely's Luster Medallion sculpture

What contemporary design trend do you despise? 3D printing; since most of my lighting fixtures are handmade, I feel the 3D printer is removing the "artist's hand" from the process, resulting in somewhat bland and similar looking pieces.

Finish this statement: All design should... appeal to the individual and hopefully illicit an emotional response.

What’s in your dream house? Open concept, off the grid, in the country, and beautiful views of nature.

Did you pick up any new hobbies or learn a new skill while in quarantine? What was it? Multitasking with my five-year-old son demanding more "Daddy" time.

This bespoke chandelier is part of the new Gem Series designed by Zac Ridgely.

This bespoke chandelier is part of the new Gem Series designed by Zac Ridgely.

How do you think the pandemic will affect residential design in the future? What about workplace or commercial design? For residential design, I think people will be considering more multi-use spaces in their homes, such as areas that when needed can double as a home office or workspace. In commercial design, the fact that the pandemic has shown how many employees can productively work from home, perhaps companies can operate with scaled-down office footprints.

How can the design world be more inclusive? Barrier for design education should be lowered—particularly more funding for a more diverse group of people. Also, the concept of design should be introduced at a younger age to foster the interest shown in it.

What do you wish non-designers understood about the design industry? How different materials come together and the limitations that are sometimes inherent in a material.

You can learn more about Ridgely Studio Works by visiting their website or Instagram. 

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