Spotlight on Lighting

James Bedell

Let’s show hands and take a count. Do you ever consider lighting when designing your decorative glass project? Hmm, I don’t see very many hands raised. If you didn’t raise your hand, don’t feel bad. I find that many decorative glass designers know that lighting is important, yet spend very little time planning for it. I recently met award winning lighting designer and author, James Bedell, and for a lack of a better way of putting it, James has shown me the light!

For the last 10 years, James Bedell has been a lighting designer based in NYC. He developed a love for the theater and theatrical lighting while attending Pace University. Nearly four years ago, James shifted focus from lighting in the entertainment world to lighting architectural spaces and joined Tirschwell & Company. From 2008 until mid 2011, he designed lighting for Abercrombie and Fitch, where he worked with the director of lighting design on A&F and Hollister chain stores, as well as flagship locations all over the world. This year, James founded his own company, JPB Lighting, which allows him to focus on his true passion, sustainable lighting.

I asked James to enlighten me (sorry, had to do it) on lighting glass.

Patricia: What are some of the most important considerations when lighting glass?

James: There are several key considerations when lighting glass. The most important consideration of course is the purpose the glass is serving within the overall design. Is it a shelf? A countertop? A decorative element? Once the purpose is determined then it’s time to think about the opacity, color and texture of the glass all of these are important factors.

Patricia: Is there a difference in the type of light and fixtures that should be used for glass?

James: Glass varies so much that I’m reluctant to say there are fixtures that should and shouldn’t be used. I think the focus needs to be on light sources rather than light fixtures. Glass can be remarkably forgiving of different light sources. In other words, sources that wouldn’t work when directly viewed can look amazing behind glass. The marriage of glass and LED can be excellent if the detail is well designed.

Patricia: Besides trade show displays, where else would professional lighting be a good investment?

James: What I tell people is that lighting is a quality multiplier. Glass used in architectural features MUST be professionally lit to fully realize its quality. If glass is poorly lit (hot spots, inconsistent color, streaks, etc.) then a high-quality piece of glass will look poor. If it’s lit expertly, then what is already a high-quality piece will appear priceless.

Patricia: Do you find that most artists, fabricators, manufacturers don’t consider lighting until after a project or product is completed?

James: When I talk about lighting most designers, artists, creatives in general always say “lighting is so important!” Yet, lighting doesn’t often get a seat at the table in the initial design process. Often it’s not until poor lighting ruins a desired effect that lighting designers are called in.

Patricia: The year 2011 was very successful for you. Do you have big plans for the New Year?

James: 2011 was a great year! I got to break free and start my own company. I also got to work on a wide variety of projects from architectural projects like private residents to theatrical projects and special events. I also took the time to write a book, Losing Edison: Beautiful, Sustainable Lighting at Home.

In the New Year, I’m looking to connect with architects and work on more architectural projects, but also focus on two or three personal projects. One project will be to create a small lighting design and photograph it every day for a month. I want to light people, art, furniture, and of course glass.

If you didn’t raise your hand for the question at the beginning of this blog I recommend collaborating with a lighting designer, like James Bedell, on your next project.

Leave me a comment if you have questions about lighting or want to tell me about your own experience collaborating with a lighting designer, I’d like to hear from you!