Light was just a natural agent stimulating sight and making things visible until German born, Ingo Maurer, shook up the industrial design scene in 1966 when he founded the studio “Design M”, later renamed “Ingo Maurer GmbH and Co”. Since then, Maurer has produced over 150 lights and lighting systems, sometimes recycling ideas, but never repeating himself. Maurer describes himself as a “gambler”[i], following his instincts and taking risks, which have landed his work worldwide on fashion runways, airports, public buildings and monuments, among many other locations.[ii]
Maurer finds inspiration in everyday objects and materials and his fascination for the “magical and mystical” properties of light[iii]. In his one-man workshop in the mid 60’s, Maurer played with the classic concepts of brightness and shadow and produced his first lamp, “Bulb”. The design came to him while lying in bed, in a cheap Venice pensione, as he stared up at the ceiling, captivated by the unadorned beauty of a simple light bulb[iv]. His admiration for Edison’s invention prompted him to encase a light bulb in an immense replica made of clear glass. “Bulb”, having been received with great enthusiasm, launched Maurer’s career as a lighting designer and now rests in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
In 1989, Maurer’s “Bulb” shrank and sprouted a pair of handcrafted goose feather wings. The new creation was given the name Lucellino and is now considered as one of Maurer’s signature pieces. The design made its big debut in a 1989 exhibition for the Cartier Foundation, located outside of Paris in a German war bunker, as part of a spectacular installation titled “Day and Night.” The exhibition’s location inspired Maurer to incorporate smoke, dust, mirrors and water, all in motion, in his installation, along with a flock of Lucellinos suspended on wires to create an impression of flight. One side of the installation was illuminated, while the other remained dark. Extravagant displays play a large role in Maurer’s work method; he believes they attract attention to the lamps, expand their clientele and potential group of collaborators and serve as a ”testing ground for new ideas”.[v]
Not only is Maurer known for using a mix of unexpected materials and ordinary objects in his designs, he doesn’t hesitate to experiment with new lighting technologies and is among the first designers to incorporate halogen and light-emitting diodes in his work.[vi] Inspired by a New Year’s celebration in Haiti where light bulbs were soldered onto overhead power cords to provide light for street fairs, Maurer set out to design a light fixture entitled YaYaho, which would take him four years to complete. In 1984, with his company approaching bankruptcy because of this elaborate design, the 276 part system was complete and was a huge success, forcing the company to expand in all areas to meet the demand of YaYaHo. The fixture is made of halogen reflectors suspended from tightly strung low-voltage cables and allows users to adjust the height and placement of each hanging element and the little mirrors that bounce the light[vii].
Maurer’s curiosity about creativity characterizes his work and keeps his designs coming. His interest began as a youngster when the rays of sunlight dancing on Germany’s Lake Constance caught his eye and he shows no sign of losing this interest anytime soon. Ingo Maurer constantly works with a team of young designers, collaborating on ideas and production but also serves as a mentor helping them gain recognition. Ingo Maurer once said of his work, “I want things to look unfinished, and to leave space for the people who use or look at them to add something of themselves,” which truly defines his method and goals as a prolific designer[viii].
[iv] Webb, Michael. Ingo Maurer. Chronicle Books. San Francisco. 2003.
[vii] Webb, Michael. Ingo Maurer. Chronicle Books. San Francisco. 2003.
“Biography.” “Work.” 2007. Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. Provoking Magic:Lighting of Ingo Maurer. http://ingomaurer.cooperhewitt.org
“The Collection.” http://www.moma.org/collection
“Hall of Fame: Ingo Maurer.” 2007. Interior Design Magazine online.
“Ingo Maurer.” 2001. DesignBoom.
“Ingo Maurer.” Ingo Maurer. http://www.ingo-maurer.com/ accessed May 9, 2010
Webb, Michael. Ingo Maurer. Chronicle Books. San Francisco. 2003
“YaYaHo Element 1 | Ingo Maurer.” Architonic. http://www.architonic.com/pmsht/yayaho-ingo-maurer