Aperture Light by Claire Norcross

Profiles: Claire Norcross

claire norcross profileHomegirl London pays homage to Claire Norcross.  She’s an award-winning lady of the light, producing a range of stunning lighting solutions.  Her love of light grew out of her BA (Hons) in embroidery – an unusual route you might think but not when you understand her desire to see the effect it has on materials.  This combined with a childhood fear of the dark took Claire into the world of lighting design where she draws on inspiration from the natural world – sea anemones and plant stems.  She created some of the best high street lighting whilst head of lighting at Habitat 2004-07.  These include pieces such as the Spindle, Newton and Ribbon; which received the ‘Best in Lighting’ award from Elle Decoration magazine in 2006.  Her latest venture is Luminosity, a company set up with Rob Payne which aims to deliver a creative and inspiring range of lighting designs for domestic and contract interiors.  Luminosity will exclusively import and distribute the amazing Aperture light, as well as design a range of new products launching later this year.  I caught up with Claire to ask a few questions …

Q: Tell me more about how you ventured into the world of lighting.

A: When I was at college I produced sculptural textile pieces which had lights in them and others using light reactive materials, these were more like art objects than functional pieces.  On graduating I was awarded a place on the ‘Setting up Scheme,’ a business grant from the Regional Arts Council and was given a studio for 2 years at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester.  While the idea of commissioned textile pieces was one direction for my work, it was also essential to have a strand to your work which could be more readily available, possible batch production pieces or even mass-produced items.  I decided to design a range of light shades and through this product development, the serendipitous design of the Eight-Fifty was born.  To cut a long story short the design was then included in the range at Habitat and became one of their best sellers.  I received so much press for the light it was overwhelming.  One article said, “The Eight-Fifty, by lighting designer Claire Norcross”… I remember thinking, blimey I have only designed one light and already been labelled as a lighting designer and perhaps I had better design a few more then!

Q:  Tell me more about your career highlights.

A: I think being invited to take part in a residency at Object, the Australian Centre for Craft and Design in Sydney, in 2001 was amazing.  It was a great life experience and working in a studio of jewellers was a fantastic environment.  On my return, the success of the Eight-Fifty was definitely a high point and the success of the product came as a complete surprise!  It became a bit of a joke opening the weekend magazines to find it featured in there for weeks.  In 2003 I designed Aperture and launched it at Designers Block, it was this light which put me back in touch with Tom Dixon and the Habitat team and after a period of freelance work the following year, I was taken on as the Lighting Design Manager, a fantastic job for an amazing company.  During my 3 years at Habitat, the pace of working was dramatically different from my previous ‘craft-based’ experience.  However, I still applied the same process and this was acknowledged by Elle Decoration Magazine in 2006 when I was awarded ‘Young Designer of the Year’ and ‘Best in Lighting.’  This came with the support and acknowledgement from Sir Terence Conran who said: “Design Classic is an over-used phrase in this industry, but I expect it to be associated with the work of Claire Norcross for a long time to come.”  In 2009, I was selected for the highly prestigious Jerwood Contemporary Makers Exhibition.  After working at commercial pace for Habitat this was a rare treat to spend 4 months on one project.  I returned to working in paper, a material I still have a great affinity with, to produce Bloom 296, a highly crafted and multi-layered piece made solely from paper.

Q: Tell me more about the inspiration behind your designs and use of materials.

A:  My design process, and particularly when it has been the most successful and original, has always followed a particular process.  Namely that the inspiration, which I mostly look to the natural world for – structural plant forms and internal structures of plant and animal forms, is appropriated to the right technique and material, whether that is paper, glass or the humble cable tie.  Sometimes I have designed by experimenting with the material first but generally the idea for the form is the initial starting point.  My process is also very much rooted in craft and making, I always keep an eye out for 1960s books on traditional handcrafts, whether that be embroidery, origami or macrame!

Q: Tell me more about Luminosity.

A: We originally began talking about Luminosity about 18 months ago when Rob approached me about Aperture.  Rob has an importing business called the Hanging Lantern Co and he was getting requests for a higher spec of a lantern.  We kept the discussion going and the sad demise of Habitat presented us with an opportunity, to take the licence of the design back and produce it ourselves.  So we have only really been formally a company for about 6 months and we are delighted that John Lewis has included Aperture in their collection.  It has already exceeded their expectations in the few months that it has been on sale.  We are also stocking a number of independent design stores, such as Utility in Liverpool and Ferrious in Manchester and hope to expand this and the contract market.  It all seems to have happened quite quickly and we are excited about the opportunities.  We also have a new collection which we will be launching at the Home Show in Earls Court, early in 2013.

Q: Do you have any of your lights at home, which ones and where are they?

A: I have all my lights at home!  I am too mean to go out and buy lights and I was privileged to be able to collect the Habitat samples.  Most of the time the ‘light bulb being switched on above your head’ is a symbol for somebody having an idea but to me, the sight of a bare light bulb is seen as a question and a new challenge!

Q: Do you have any tips on lighting for the home?

A: Lighting has different functions throughout the home, whether that is to create a warmth and gentle ambience or to direct specific tasks.  Ask yourself what you want from each room and choose lights and functional additions e.g. dimmers, which will allow you to play with this.  For example, if your dining table has to also operate as a part-time desk, then perhaps having a light which has versatility, up/downlight function might be a good option.  A sculptural shade with a delicate dreamy touch can work really well for the bedroom, porcelain or paper can be a great material choice and fitting this with a dimmer works well for gentle evening glow or blasting it on for when you can’t find your keys on a dark winter’s morning!  Lounges are best illuminated with sidelights, standard light and a wall or table lamps.  We decided to remove the central light fitting altogether but if this seems a bit drastic then perhaps having a shade which is more of a decorative mobile and looks equally good when unlit, is a really nice focal point.  Anglepoise is such a classic and versatile light and ours tends to move around the house a bit!  And finally, don’t be afraid to take the indoor lights outdoors on a nice summers evening (if we ever get one in this country!)

For more information about Claire, Luminosity and to buy her amazing lights go to Claire Norcross.  Credits: text by Homegirl London, images courtesy of Claire Norcross, special thanks to Claire Norcross.

Aperture Light, Claire Norcross


Bloom Light by Claire Norcross


Bloom 296 Light by Claire Norcross

Bloom 296

Eight-fifty-orange by Claire Norcross

Eight-Fifty (Orange)

Ribbon by Claire Norcross


Spindle by Claire Norcross