Why Curiousa & Curiousa's glass lighting is so unique
PUBLISHED: 00:00 06 February 2018
Catherine Roth discovers why a Wirksworth company is proving to be a leading light in interior design.
Curiousa & Curiousa is a Derbyshire company designing and manufacturing handmade bespoke glass lighting. Its founder, designer and director Esther Patterson, creates an ever-increasing range of glass pendants, tassel lights, table lamps, wall lights and chandeliers that have reached up to twelve metres in length and are available in no less than 22 colour shades.
Esther opened a showroom in Islington but it is at the workshop where most of the work takes place. Based in part of the historic Haarlem Mill on the edge of Wirksworth, it is from this custom-built studio that new ranges are designed and created, and orders are taken and dispatched to customers throughout the UK and internationally.
However, the company’s beginnings were somewhat more humble – Esther’s workshop was originally a caravan parked on the family’s front drive! It wasn’t long before this became too small for her and she moved to larger premises, selling her beloved VW camper to pay for an exhibitor’s stand at her first London show.
Esther has lived in Wirksworth for 20 years and worked as a graphic designer when her children were growing up. She then returned to university to study Decorative Arts at Nottingham Trent University and graduated with a First Class honours degree in 2009. It was during her studies that she began to experiment with fabric and wallpaper design as well as bone china lighting and later – after being introduced to the craft by a glass blower – glass lighting. Just one year after graduation Esther founded Curiousa & Curiousa and continued to develop her products, which she then exhibited and launched at London Design Week in 2010.
It was the glass lights that really proved popular. Esther knew she wouldn’t have the time to work on all four products so, led by the response she received at her first show, she chose the glass lighting. Esther says: ‘The glass lighting fitted a niche. There was a lot of Italian imported glass but it was all very old-fashioned – there was nothing modern at that time.’
Curiousa & Curiousa’s creations now hang in prestigious establishments in London including Harvey Nichols, Liberty London and the Royal Albert Hall. Esther opened her Islington showroom last year and will soon be moving to a new location on Lots Road in Chelsea.
Esther finds inspiration in both vintage lighting shops and in nature where whole colour palettes can be revealed in one leaf. She also experiments with various shapes and different stacking combinations. When Esther first worked with a glass blower, she experimented stacking glass in various combinations. As part of her final degree show she had the idea of making a deconstructed table lamp chandelier – from this an idea was formed and Curiousa & Curiousa was born with endless possibilities of glass shape and colour combinations.
Esther continues to produce new designs and carries a notebook with her in which she sketches out ideas, some of these going on to form the next year’s new range. She then draws the designs on the computer using Illustrator software before giving the printed plan to the glassblower to produce samples of each.
Most of Esther’s work is done at the workshop where she plans, creates new designs, organises photo shoots, checks projects are going to plan and meets with her staff. Sometimes her days involve site visits and meeting customers.
As well as selling its various ranges, Curiousa & Curiousa also works to commission including its stunning stairwell chandeliers which can be made to the customer’s exact requirements to include colour, drop and length – even down to the colour of the flex. Esther also works with interior designers and architects, responding to each customer’s requirements as well as keeping up to date with current trends.
All of the glass, as well as the fixtures and fittings, are made in the UK and Esther is keen that as much as possible should be made locally. Indeed, most of the glass is hand-blown in a traditional glassmaking studio just up the road in Matlock where the techniques used to make the glass remain essentially the same as those used a few hundred years ago. Esther says: ‘The lighting is very tactile. If you pick one up, you find it is quite substantial as it’s blown with a reasonable thickness of glass. It’s the simplicity and beauty of the shapes, the way natural light shines through and the way the colours stand out. Being free blown, each one is slightly different and not totally symmetrical.’
Last September Esther was excited to work on a project called ‘The Derbyshire Collective Café’. Together with Royal Crown Derby and Blackpop, she curated the entrance café at the internationally renowned Decorex exhibition which showcased luxury interior design products from new, emerging and established talent.
Curiousa & Curiousa has gone from strength to strength with Esther’s creations, lighting up the design world in a way that is both contemporary yet keeps the traditional glassmaking skills of yesteryear alive.