Vancouver is not typically known internationally for being a design epicentre. There are regions in the world where design is culturally engrained in everyday life or seamlessly taught at a younger age. Nevertheless, this attitude seems to be steadily changing as a growing number of locally brewed design companies have achieved international success and through this have begun to affect the general consensus toward our local design. Case in point, the ANDlight launch event, where a design savvy crowd gathered to support the home grown lighting brand. Partners, Caine Heintzman, Lukas Peet and Matt Davis have brought their love of lighting design together to form a company that brings an element of fun and playfulness to the often technical world of LED lighting. Fitting perhaps since this city, more than anything else, is known for its’ natural abundance in recreative amenities.
That eureka moment — ideas, innovation and progress have always been encapsulated in the evolution of lighting. In the race to fully harness it one thing is for certain, even though it is something we can’t completely physically grasp, it is there surrounding us in many forms when we choose to see it. Whether we take that for granted or not is a personal matter, yet quality of light in one form or another touches the soul. I was fortunate to sit down with the gentlemen of ANDlight on a few occasions to get an in-depth perspective on the past and future roots of this quickly growing company.
Interview by: Koko Jubilo
Copy Editor: Tina Shabani
Portrait of the founders of ANDlight by: Grady Mitchell
Clothing courtesy of Roden Gray
(The team behind ANDlight: From L to R-Lukas Peet, Caine Heintzman, and Matt Davis)
Koko: Matt, I remember meeting you during Euroluce in 2009 while you were working for a lighting company.
Matt: Yes, I’ve worked in the decorative lighting world where we would import European fixtures for many, many years… pretty much a decade and Euroluce was our main show to attend.
Was it your idea or a collaborative idea to start the company? How did ANDlight come about?
Matt: Basically Caine and I were actually working for the same aforementioned company, we were around it so much we thought let’s just do this ourselves. We talked to some other people we were considering working with for a while and it just got to a point where we thought why work with other people when we could do it ourselves. Then we met Lukas and thought, wait this isn’t just a dream, this could be real!
It’s great that you all met in this way… so you brought the talent together Matt? Where did the name of the company come from?
Matt: After working with Caine and after seeing his work it was apparent that he was talented and had a good work ethic. I had a short interaction with Lukas and it was obvious that our western Canadian roots clicked in what we wanted out of the business and life. Lukas was designing for Roll & Hill. I had seen his name on a few things and we were thinking, because you get to know everyone in the design community, why don’t we know him? Roll & Hill came to do a presentation and that’s where we met. Lukas decided to move here and once he was here that was the catalyst for us to make the move.
Lukas: The name “AND” gave us the opportunity to expand and to be open.
I see, it leaves it open ended.
Matt: Yes, in architectural projects, lighting sometimes tends to be forgotten until the very end, when perhaps at this point there is no budget. So it’s a bit of a poke at this idea of lighting sometimes being overlooked when it comes to space design.
Which is ironic though, because lighting is what makes the biggest impact to the final feel of a space.
Caine: Designing a space without light would leave you in the dark.
Matt: Yes, and having said that, I think in the last 5 years there has been a huge shift towards lighting. It’s been easier to make people understand the importance of good lighting, what it does, the effects.
It’s been raining a lot recently. With it being winter, does the amount of rain we get here in Vancouver affect your creative process in any way?
Lukas:For me it does I guess, in relation to the summer where you’re distracted by other things, so I kind of like it. It’s nice to work and focus without thinking that you’re missing out on something.
Yes and do you think there is an emotional aspect as well? Is this somehow incorporated into your designs?
Lukas: Well I grew up in the mountains so it was always dark, so yes that has something to do with it for sure.
Caine: Emotionally speaking? Yes, lighting does affect that but are you also talking about work process?
(Photos: of Pipeline CM2 designed by Caine Heintzman)
The process and the ideas of how you look at / design light.
Matt: Well I think we put a lot of effort in addressing colour temperatures in all our products and there is the CRI levels and making sure that technically, not only how they look but also how they perform, is a by-product. Our original mandate was to create light fixtures that actually light something, luminaries that are luminous, and that’s probably because we don’t have sun for six months of the year!
Lukas: It’s not just a sculpture with a light bulb, there’s more to it than that.
Continuing to think on a more abstract level… what are your thoughts on the significance of memory to the creation of light?
Lukas: Mine would be, as I mentioned earlier, related to growing up in the mountains. It gets dark early living up in the wooded area so it was very noticeable when the day would shift and when the night would shift. Being aware of that shift and how light affects us in particular.
Caine: I would think that since light is such a visual thing, that you would have the most memorable experiences during very particular moments. You may be in a particular space, watching a sunrise or sunset, fire crackling, whatever it is, the way the light plays off of things in any instance can be inspiring. Whenever you remember something visual it probably has something to do with the lighting, so I think it has a very important and powerful role in how we experience the world and that affects your memory as well — through experience.
Yes, for me, I think light and memory are intertwined and so I find the space between creation and light very interesting.You guys are all obviously talented in your own specific ways, thinking less abstractly, what were your main reasons for staying in the realm of lighting?
Lukas: Matt and Caine’s connection with the lighting industry, but after graduating I had some success with lights, three actually. Two ended up being in competitions and one actually being produced. So having some degree of success with lights, there was an obvious connection and so lighting would be the thing to do.
So it was a natural direction and had less to do with an untapped market or niche?
Matt: I’ve always been drawn to lighting. It has been something from back in my old retail days, anything and everything has been lighting! So I’ve found a natural lean to it. It’s been second nature to have Lukas since he had experience with lighting and understood it. Same with Caine.
I’m familiar with your work Lukas, I know that you’ve designed for companies such as Roll & Hill, but now that you have started a company with Caine and Matt how will things play out? Is there conflict of interest now that you have started your own company if you should continue pitching ideas to other lighting specific companies?
Lukas: No, I think for lighting specifically, all being equal partners we all have interest in growing the company and doing the best for that. But we also have a specific aesthetic and direction for ANDlight. So if there is an opportunity for us or Caine to do a light or product for someone else there is still that flexibility. I mean the main focus is with lighting, ANDlight and what’s best for ANDlight.
People are more familiar with your work recently being chosen for a few awards Lukas… is there equal creative responsibility between the three of you when it comes to design?
Caine: Yes, in the company we all have to share a whole number of tasks. My goal has been to have some input in the creative aspects as well. Lukas and I share a lot of the creative tasks in terms of production/developing products and we all bounce ideas back and forth. We might start off conceptually on our own, with our seeds of ideas and then pitch them internally and get feedback. We critique each other’s ideas, make other suggestions and grow the ideas that are worth cultivating. So yes, I would say I have a creative hand too but yes, Lukas and I are also doing a lot of the production, we do that together in order to find the right producers to work with and build relationships with. Matt has a lot to do with that also because he sees all the numbers and he tells us what we can and can’t do. Operation is integrated very closely between all of us.
So everyone has their strengths but among duties and responsibilities there is
interchangeability in a sense.
(Photo of Slab 30 and Slab 90 at 33 Acres designed by Lukas Peet)
In terms of your production processes, are you more focused on ideas that are more market driven for a demographic or are you more focused on your ideas and/or putting something out there that is more innovative?
Lukas: I think Caine and I, in terms of the design point of view, have a pretty clear idea of designing products that are interesting but still has a function as well as a need and Matt helps with his lighting industry/sales experience in knowing what does sell, what does work, what doesn’t work. So there is a lot of back and forth between the three of us in developing it so that it isn’t a light that doesn’t bring much new to the market but that it’s something that’s innovative and new but still works, is sellable and at the right price point.
Matt: That’s something that we’ve all been pushing for, something that’s not just an art piece. It has to be functional, something that really has to work as a light fixture and that’s where we’ve really worked well together. Bringing up the tough questions with each other. Is this bright enough? Is this going to work? Is this going to be useable in the person’s house? Does it dim? …those kind of things.
Caine: In terms of production, I think one of the strong core values of the company when we started was that we wanted to be a local company in the sense that we base ourselves here in Vancouver but also try to produce as much as we can here.So within that we have set up a whole set of constraints in terms of production as well. We’ve set up relationships with vendors here and that tells us we can produce something this way and we can’t produce something another way.Basically it depends on what our producers can do for us. That really affects the outcome of the product at the end too. I think we learned a lot about that on our first run of product.
So everything is produced locally here in Vancouver and you are going to continue along that same path?
Lukas: We’d like to try to, but it has to work economically for us too. As an idea to produce, locally works for us now.
Matt:Lukas and Caine did a really good job in designing within those parameters, because there isn’t a whole lot of outside of the industry that we’ve used for suppliers, or there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot. So they weren’t designing with injection moulded components in mind, they were coming with things that could be produced here and were scalable. If they weren’t doing that we’d have to go outside the country. Having said that, let’s just make this clear, Vancouver is perhaps one of the worst places for us to start a design manufacturing company.
Why do you say that?
Matt: Because it is very expensive.
Lukas: Expensive and isolated.
Matt: Staff-wise, there’s a lot of designers but as far as technical labour there is less related to technically skilled areas such as electrical. It’s hard to find.
Lukas: In terms of Canada, Toronto or Montreal would be better… it is what it is!
Yet, there has been some local success in terms of design and manufacturing and I consider ANDlight to be part of a more recent surge. What do you think is the reason for this and do you think it can be attributed to a “Canadian identity” in terms of design?
Lukas: I think there is a bigger awareness for creative industries worldwide and in Canada. Vancouver is very entrepreneurial so that helps. Inform and Bensen have been around for some time and both Bocci and Molo have been around for about ten years now.
Matt: There’s been a lot of success stories in Vancouver, and in my opinion success breeds success. From three guys that came from the backwoods of mountains, growing up, we realized it was fun being a trailblazer but also a hard thing to do. To see that it is possible from these other Vancouver based companies is really inspiring and gives you confidence that you can do it yourself. Perhaps one day someone will see what we’re doing and will be inspired by us to start something else.
Caine: That factored into part of our decision to originate the company here, we saw other people doing things here, whether it was a clothing manufacturer or furniture company.It was inspiring to all of us especially since we like the lifestyle here. We wanted to be able pursue this lifestyle and have success professionally, so that was motivation to make it a reality here. There was a realization that we could make this real by simply just doing it.
I’ve noticed that you chose to display three product families at Inform. Was there a reason for not including the Spotlight and Volume family?
Lukas: Yeah, they are currently in the works. They are now in development as we had our hands full with the three. We will be producing those hopefully in time for the spring.
Matt: Yes those are in production development and we will be selling those at Inform and our other dealers as well.
(Photo detail of one of the Button Series designed by Lukas Peet)
I’ve also noticed that you’ve focused on LED technology for your lighting designs. As other more established companies continue to offer the more traditional offerings, what are your reasons for going this route?
Lukas: We wanted to make a lighting company that was progressive and not just produce lighting that was a cord and socket with a lampshade over it. But yeah, LED technology is the way the industry is going, which helps us actually, to be at the point where it’s changing over. We have an advantage in that we are getting into the industry at the same time, while big companies are adapting the LED’s.
But we’re not talking about just your standard LED’s though?
Matt: No, it’s a little bit past that. It’s designed and managed with the proper heat sinking, drivers and use-ability. Anybody can install LED’s but not with the proper lumen output that’s going to be long lasting and low in heat. Because anyone that thinks there is no heat in LED’s is sorely wrong. Colour is also consistent, so if you buy five lights and you buy five more lights, the bins and batches are matching so we intend to have serial number on the LED’s and products so we can track them.
Caine: That’s what you don’t see really. We have a focus on technology and incorporating a higher tech lighting source but taking the design side and making that more approachable and more fun — softening the technological elements of the overall design.
Yes, I definitely see that element of “fun” running through all your families of products but they are still quite technical in that they are more advanced in design sensibility and component build quality compared to what you might normally see out there.
Matt: Yes, the way Lukas and Caine designed our products was by having a technical aspect to the products without writing technical all over them but rather designing subdued, simple, friendly and recognizable light fixtures.
Lukas: People do need to be able to live with it and use it.
So are there any new technologies you are working on that will be incorporated into your new products? Besides ramping up production, are there any new design concepts we haven’t seen yet being developed?
Lukas: Yeah besides the Spotlight Volumes there are other new products we are working on.
Matt: Well in terms of technology, we will be adding more adjustability which will solve the colour temperature issue when ordering and re-ordering product. In the near future the customer will be able to adjust the light to the colour temperature they require or prefer, ranging from 3000k to 6500k.
Caine: That’s something we are currently developing — it adds significant versatility and value to the fixture. Most people are more comfortable and efficient working under a more neutral light like 4000k but a more casual colour temperature for dining and relaxing is 3000k. The idea is that the colour temperature, or mood will be as easily adjusted as a dimmer switch, or perhaps a phone app.
I see. Looking at the Slab series in particular with its’ use of unconventional materials, how do you see it evolving? Will all your families evolve over time?
Lukas: Yes, I think as technologies change and get better the products will undergo slight changes over time as with other products in the industry.
Caine: The ranges of each light family will expand as well. For example, adding a Button flush mount or a Pipeline wall or table light.
Lukas: Expand in different uses, different applications.
Yes, I like all the concepts in your range of products and would love to see them expand. Are there any new manufacturing techniques that will be applied… will you be continuing to play with textiles?
Lukas: Yes, if there is a good use for it. Keep in mind that we are limited by industry as well so we have to use local-friendly technologies and not more setup costly methods. As a new company I think we were able to produce something new and unique and offer something different to the market at a price point that will still make sense to a lot of people.
(Photos of the Pipeline series in Roden Gray store, designed by Caine Heintzman)
Talking about the pipeline, Caine could you tell us how that concept came about?
Caine: The original inspiration for the Pipeline was an old school linear incandescent light source which looked very cool and gave off a beautiful warm glowing light. In my design development I tried to incorporate it into a light fixture but later reconsidered using it as the energy consumption of that light source was through the roof — to the point that it was irresponsible to use such a thing. So I developed a way to incorporate essentially the same qualities of that light source however with a LED.
On top of that, it made sense that the Pipeline work as a modular system, which is supported by the fact that it has low energy consumption and it can be connected in an infinite number of combinations and still doesn’t require a lot of energy to produce a lot of light. The modular aspect is fun and empowering and it encourages the project designer or architect to be involved in the design of the fixture in relation to the space, whether it is over a dinner table, a long restaurant bar or around the perimeter of a room. I like that idea as it gives life to a product once it has left my hands…
Yes, I see the potential in its’ flexibility… I’d like to see it used even in a vertical fashion. I think it would look incredible in this orientation, perhaps bouncing light off of a wall?
Caine: Yes, it definitely has a lot of potential that we haven’t had the opportunity to yet explore. We’re looking forward to seeing what project specifiers can do with it!.
Yes, I think that the strength of the Pipeline is that it is very continuous. I really like how the black and white versions are made in the parts of the same colour to accentuate this, although there is something to say about how the contrast in the copper connector pieces for the silver version highlights the system components.
Speaking of the future of the company moving forward, where do you see yourselves fitting-in given the gamut of established companies out there that focus on lighting and how do you plan to distinguish yourselves?
Lukas: Nothing against all the companies at all, but I think we have our niche cut out already. I think the three offerings we have are playful but still innovative and forward thinking, so yes I think it’s a pretty diverse palette for the three lights we are already producing.
Matt: These companies have been around for so many years. Many have actually been an inspiration to our work and what we are doing so we are just currently looking to do a fraction of what they’re doing as we ramp up production until one day we can prove ourselves to be up there as we move the ball up the court.
Caine: I think there are a select few companies in North America that are trying to do what we are doing. What we’re doing is kind of fresh for this market (North America) and hope it applies to other markets as well. I think the product stands alone no matter where it’s from, but I think the story of who is behind the company, where we are based, what we are making, how we make it, are all important elements to setting us aside as a unique company with a different perspective.
And being represented by Inform is a good partnership as well.
Lukas: Yes, their support and help has been great.
Matt: They really believed in what we were doing and offered us support. Their support for local design companies besides ourselves has been massive.
Lukas: They laid down a large groundwork of starting design in Vancouver and have been a huge support for the whole community.
Caine: Yes, after finally having our launch it was nice to see people coming out for design — the local support is much appreciated.
Yes, I’ve been to a number of product launches but the people and energy present at your event was great. Since this successful brand launch at Inform, what has been your biggest challenge?
Caine: The most interesting challenges have been growing production and growing the company from being a small startup. Expanding the range we started with, making more volume and dealing with scaling production up more or less have been exciting challenges.
Matt: Yes, totally and my take on it is time. One year ago from the initial launch and now we are in a new space with employees and along with Inform, we have a lot of new dealers. Things change quickly but also learning to keep everything balanced has been a good challenge.
Has there been any refinements to the company’s outlook?
Lukas: The same.
Matt: We still like each other! (laughs)
(1-Button light displayed at Inform Interiors 2-Button light detail photo- Designed by Lukas Peet)
Definitely something not to be overlooked. There’s definitely something to be said about having chemistry. Over time, when working in close confines this can be a true test of that! I had the opportunity to visit you on occasion at your old studio and now at your new location. What have been the motivations for moving spaces and what are the biggest changes besides the obvious scale differences?
Lukas: Mostly a bigger division between offices and buildout shop. Shipping is facilitated due to bigger doors, but mostly a more professional space which changes the mindset from being a startup to a more established company.
Caine: Yes, we’ve had the opportunity to divide the space into offices, production and design. This has allowed us to have more space to work in our own respective areas and sections with less distractions.
What about the overall feel?
Lukas: As mentioned it definitely feels more professional. It’s another step from the initial launch where we needed to sort out initial production to meet new orders and now we need to fill and grow the new space accordingly.
Well, besides the professional feel, I think you have also done a great job at utilizing and keeping the natural light flowing through the space. Having a better view, all necessary things when promoting creativity.
As you said earlier, success breeds success and there are companies here that are a bit more established that are doing it and being successful. What is the future plans in terms of the company expanding internationally even more so than you’ve done so far?
Matt: Our international outlook is one day at a time. The first step is getting CE approvals, the second step is to enter some trade shows and the third step is to actually get out there and pound the pavement. We already have a lot of inquiries so we know that there is interest but it is really important for us to get outside of North America and enter Europe essentially.
Yes, Europe is a huge market especially in terms of what you guys do. Now that the infrastructure is in place, is this the year that you guys start making more of a push towards attending and more specifically, being exhibitors for trade shows such as the Salone de Mobile?
Matt: Most likely the year following because Euroluce happens every other year.
Exciting! Will you try to situate yourself in the main exhibition halls or will you be looking for space outside the main convention centre?
Matt: First off they have to accept you! The bottom line is that we have to get some sales to get there.
Caine: It’s all part of production.
Matt: More production, more problems! (laughs)
Caine: Good problems!
Not a bad problem to have! In fact, if you weren’t in the studio today working on continually growing your company what would you be doing at this particular moment?
Caine: Surfing or snowboarding. (laughs)
Lukas: Well the plan was to go snowboarding!
I don’t blame you… there wasn’t much snow last season, I heard that it’s going off this year! Locals!?
Matt: Yeah, we’re trying to squeeze it in, maybe Cypress Mountain and then have a beer!
On that note, cheers to a great season and to future success! Thank you for your time to sit and chat about your company.
CLM: Thank you.
Check out our visit at ANDlight studio taken by Grady Mitchell here