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After debuting in Europe, Moooi’s Coppélia Suspended Lamps designed by Arihiro Miyake have come to the U.S. and Canada. The Japanese-born designer lives and works in Helsinki. For these new pieces, he found inspiration in the movement of ballerinas, and specifically the Coppélia ballet, to create delicate-looking chandeliers that incorporate a whole new way of working with LED lighting. Whitewall spoke with Miyake about capturing the feeling of a dancer’s movement in the lamps, the major changes taking place in the lighting industry today, and why he describes his design philosophy as al dente.
WHITEWALL: The Coppélia Suspended Lamps were inspired by the ballet of the same name. Can you tell us about how you arrived at that inspiration?
ARIHIRO MIYAKE: I like the movement of ballet dancers. It is a very highly trained beauty of the human body, which shows a tentative elegance in the air. I especially like the image of a ballerina’s hands or skirt when she moves and turns. It is a kind of sensitive and fine beauty that I would like to express in my work in general. And in the case of “Coppélia,” I believe that it is quite successful, therefore I name it so.
WW: Has ballet or dance inspired any previous designs of yours?
AM: There is one lamp called “Ballerina” that I designed as a part of a restaurant design project, which we called the revolved shape. It is remains for me as an image of a turning dancer.
WW: How does that movement translate to the projection of light?
AM: I like to capture delicate beauty in my design. It is not a reproduction of any one movement. It is instead a blurred image in my head. In another words, it is like the memory of a beautiful song or film. I do not know how I translate it into the real products, but maybe it is more like one of my subconscious way of creating the aesthetic feeling.
WW: You said that without LED technology, the lamp could not be made. Why did you want to make this lamp with LED technology? Why did you want to make something different from any other lamp?
AM: In a last decade, the lighting business has been facing a massive change. The classical bulb lamps, and some others, are forbidden in most countries today. For designers and lighting companies, I think it is an era of great chance. We are free from the conventional ideas and rules of making lamps. The biggest difference I think is that we can design the light source itself according to the design. In the past, we bought them at the supermarket. This fact can cause a very interesting change in lighting objects. My motivation of designing lamps is to create new typologies.
WW: How did you arrive at the shape of the stainless steel frame? Why did you want to reference a traditional chandelier shape, and the tubes housing the LEDs reference wax candles?
AM: I had been thinking of what I could do with LED technology. The first lamp I made with Moooi was a table lamp with a small head, and the design could be only made with as small as possible light source. And with “Coppélia,” I had the idea to divide a certain amount of light into many but small parts. However, when there are many light sources in one lamp, I had to think of how to transmit the electricity into each parts. So it has became the main idea of “Coppelia”, which carries electricity through the structure itself. I call it “Naked Design”—what you see is all that it needs. The design is about the pattern of thin wire conducting positive and negative electricity. It looks messy but never touches each other, looking like a bicycle wheel, but because of thinness and mirror surface, the lights look like they are floating in the air. It is one of the new directions we can go with LED lighting, I suppose. I have been thinking of it for years, and to make it happen, I thought it was easier to communicate with people by through an image that everyone has in their mind—the classic chandelier.
WW: How would you describe your design philosophy?
AM: Al dente! The right moment to eat!