Interview: Arik Levy, Deltalight Butler

Here at Design Exchange our interest in the peripheral spaces around the practices that inform aesthetics is no secret. Our raison d’être is cross pollination, collaborative thinking, and ideas made possible thanks to interdisciplinary cooperation.

As such Delta Light’s decision to begin working with practitioners from beyond the typical lighting and interiors sector was always going to prove popular in this office.

Butler is one of the results, a love child of said company and one Arik Levy, a Tel Aviv-born industrial designer and artist currently based in Paris. The concept centres on paying homage to the universally recognisable table lamp, here made from the paper used in creating plissé fashion classics, and turning that concept on its head. Or at least throwing it out the front door.

Arik Levy, Deltalight Butler

Rather than an internal furnishing, then, what Delta Light and Levy have created is specifically aimed at the outdoor market, nodding to the relationship between people and the environment, while breaking new ground in terms of developing a living space beyond the walls of a home. We caught up with the man in question to learn a little more about the process involved in taking this into production. 

Arik Levy, Deltalight Butler

How did the collaboration with Delta Light begin?

“Delta Light is a case of love at first sight, we met in Frankfurt at the Light + Building fair. I had no intention to work with them, nor they me, we met through a common contact- their Israeli agent. She said come for a drink, so I did, and met Paul there.

“We had a great conversation and have a similar view on things. He was like ‘Ah, you are Ariky, I know your work, why don’t we meet for a proper conversation’. I then had an installation in Brussells, which they came to, and afterwards we had a two hour meeting, which is how it all began.

“At first it was all quite new to them- they don’t really work with people from the outside. They had a couple of experiences in the past, but Delta is more an invisible brand. Not the brand itself, more who they work with. It’s a very European style, minimalistic and more technical. So they didn’t need my support for the minimialsm, they do that very well. They needed my support on something that had more emotions, that can bring a new facet into their portfolio and connect with their clients in a different way. Being more visible, having more of an understanding of the brand as an emotional thing.”

Arik Levy, Deltalight Butler

And where did the Butler design come from?

“We decided to work on outdoor lighting, because it is something connecting the environment, internal space, and people, and from that the Butler was born- basically a service provider, giving light to get into or get out of your building. But it has the connotations of something that originates from the inside, too.

“It has a link, for me the metaphor is the table lamp you had or your family had, which has gone out to the garden and decided that should be its new home. And since outside it looks like home, then outside is a home. That’s also the truth because we all live on Earth, and that isn’t only indoor it’s also outdoor.

“The form language and inspiration all comes from codes that we know. The folded fabric, the silk fabric that used to be put on shades in the past. The true story is that I was riding my bike in Paris, 15 or 16 years ago. Obviously the fashion industry is very big in the city and there are many workshops making plissé fabric.

When you run fabric into the machine to make the plissé it is wrapped in between two pieces of paper, then they take the fabric out and the paper is thrown away. So I found this huge pack of plissé paper, it was a beautiful sunny day and so it created a lot of shadows. It’s a very interesting form of folding. From there I started to play with it and had some ideas.

“That was a long time ago, and when I met with Delta Light we decided that would be a perfect match for the product, for the impression I wanted it to give off. Not just a tube or a square fitting, which I find to a degree a little boring. Maybe it fits big industry and very big buildings like business centres and so on, but it doesn’t really bridge the living environment and commercial spaces. That was the idea.”

Arik Levy, Deltalight Butler

The work was collaborative, but how autonomous was your involvement?

“We were first doing the design as I wanted it, as I understood it, as I wanted the proportions and so on. Then we looked at the technology- Deltalight are very good with that, they do their own chipboards, their own engineering, mechanisms. Then the light was tested- output, duration. We have a downlight, uplight, down and uplight, all with different requirements but in the same body.

“So that was a great support, as they rolled out their mechanism for development, and as  a result by the third meeting we had a working prototype with nearly all the features in there, and we were dealing with the details- controlling radiuses, perfecting the curves, and making sure it looked exactly how we wanted it to look.

“Then they also had a very good team for taking it into production. so that was a very smooth part too. Then I immediately started to develop the rest of the family, because what we showed first was just the basic floor lamp, in two heights, and the wall lamp. For Milan we expanded that to show the whole culture and the ecosystem of the light itself.

“We have the wall lamps that can be mounted to a strap, and then strapped to a tree. When you’re in the countryside or when you have a house in the country and want an outdoor light you don’t necessarily want to run cables through the floor and have metal poles and so on. You might want to be a bit more flexible, and be able to bring it inside during the winter to prevent it from being damaged.

So the idea is you go and strap it to a tree, meaning if you want a picnic you’re not limited to the veranda, you can move a bit further away. It’s very flexible and has more of an immediate emotional, intuitive aspect. including the chandelier, so we have invented probably the first outdoor chandelier. Often what happens is when you have a dining table outside- whether that’s a restaurant, business or just a house- and you want more light there’s no way to do it so you end up with spots or really strong lights. With this it provides a centre of gravity for everyone to sit around and gather energy around the light, like every chandelier does. And it’s executed with the same lampshade- which can be very big, or very small. It’s a system, not just a product, and that’s something new I think.”

Arik Levy, Deltalight Butler

Arik Levy, Deltalight Butler

What learnings do you take from the experience?

“As an outsider, as a designer and an artist, what I cherished most was the relationship and the contact. And not necessarily the intensity, or the regularity or the length of the meetings, more the content. How does it feel when we meet together? It was always very enjoyable and a discussion- never a conflict, even if we might not have agreed on things.

“I can see that over the last four years they have changed so much. So what we launched in Milan was almost a new Delta Light. Not so cold and removed but involved- they had a bar there, a party, they wanted people to hang out and it was in the city, right there. That is a change, and cultural, emotional changes in a company are not that easy- I think they managed it, and they are continuing to manage it well.”

This feature is part of our lighting Exchange with Deltalight

This story is free and open source. You have permission to republish our story under a Creative Commons license as long as you credit Design Exchange and relink back to our website. 

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