Vintage & modern collide in the wonderful products created by Barn Light, which is located in the heart of the manufacturing/industrial centre just south east of Melbourne.
Resident creator, Jesse Lee-Stringer, is enamoured with all that making their lights has to offer. His world is components, shades, drills, pipe threaders & samples but what he creates is a major focal point in any interior or exterior. He works predominantly with the versatile aluminium, and the products are some of the best in the industry. It’s a completely different world and a trade that most people rarely get a deep insight into, but we’re lucky enough to have some custom lights in our warehouse space. They’re a crew adept at telling stories, with concepting being one of Jesse’s favourite parts of creating.
Can you describe in detail your workspace & location?
We’re located in the South Eastern suburbs of Melbourne about 40 minutes from the CBD.
We are surrounded by industrial buildings, where a good deal of activity goes on, so everywhere you look its simply manufacturing and processing in concrete slab buildings and trucks hauling loads up & down the roads. It doesn’t sound too romantic, but we really like the raw landscape. We’re a stone’s throw away from the old General Motors factory in Dandenong, a relic of our manufacturing heritage; most of Hallam and nearby Dandenong were purely manufacturing areas back in the day.
Our workspace is much the same inside. Concrete walls, container-height roller doors, overhead high-bay lights, tools and machinery. We’re very much a ‘new’ industrial factory, fitted with bright orange and blue racking, staked with various lighting shades, components, and half-completed concepts and samples.
Our manufacturing corner consists of drill presses, pipe threaders older than my kids, and imported US machinery like pipe benders and imperial threads. The mitre saw and the bandsaw spit out aluminium shavings, and by the end of the day the workspace is thick with a drift of aluminium flakes. In another corner we‘ve got a spray booth where we galvanise and touch up fixtures. That too develops a coating of grey residue from the finishes we use.
Favourite materials to work with?
We work primarily with aluminium. It’s light, versatile and durable. Our shades are 100% aluminium alloy. The goosenecks are constructed from the same quality aluminium that they build houses from, and our die-cast doesn’t get much thicker.
My favourite part of making lights is watching the metal spinner force a flat piece of metal into a shape. It’s an entrancing sight to see the form take shape and knowing too that with just a touch too much pressure, the whole shade would warp and become nothing but scrap. A close second is spray painting, seeing something ‘ugly’ look desirable is always a fun process to watch.
Earliest memory of your craft?
Ironically, being a light maker wasn’t one of my life goals. Falling in love with making lights happened by chance, when I became “the IT guy” for a lighting company – Barn Light Electric. During my time there, I helped a friend – now my business partner – fix a few engineering issues and I started to become intrigued with the craft. I really enjoyed the engineering challenges and got a kick out of resolving them. It was a bit like being a kid with a Lego set: I got an opportunity to play with parts and became enamoured with making lights.
Where do you continually find inspiration?
My inspiration actually comes from customers who call us with half an idea or a problem for lighting. Being called to a challenge is what really charges my creativity. I have a lot of fun doing custom work for designers as well as creative homemakers. We learn a lot too from projects that involve coming up with original lighting that can apply elsewhere, so new ideas lead to a slippery slope of new concepts and half a table full of designs.
What part of the creative process excites you the most?
I like creating. High-quality things that I’d be happy to put in my own house. Not really a ‘creative process’ since we jump from concept to concept with the work of power tools! Diagrams? No thank you! – That’s, it really. Half the enjoyment of making beautiful quality light fittings is in the pleasure that pieces together.
What does your work day look like?
My staff say I do a lot of pacing. I’m not sure what that means exactly, but I’m certainly always on the go. There’s the boring business of quoting, invoicing and ordering supplies. More interesting is talking to customers and project work. I pretend to manage my staff and it’s a coffee or beer in the afternoon depending on what the weather is doing, or rather how much workspace I have left.
To see more of Barn Light visit their website.