Q&A with Astro’s James Bassant & Riley Sanders

Astro Lighting, one of Britain’s leading designer and producer of contemporary lighting, has launched its first ever capsule collection of design-led, limited edition pieces, designed by Design Director James Bassant (JB) and Senior Designer Riley Sanders (RS). 

We decided it was the perfect time to get to know more about James and Riley, their inspiration and their latest designs.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

JB: I graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Product & Furniture Design and after working for a number of lighting brands in the industry, in 1997, myself and Co-Founder John Fearon, created Astro from my basement in Kent, England. We had a shared commitment to British lighting design and a passion for quality and precision that is still present 20 years on. Building a network of partners, our expansion into new design territories quickly followed, supplying timeless luminaires for high-end hospitality projects globally. Today, we have established teams in Italy, China, Singapore and the USA, with an 86,000 ft2 HQ here in the UK. It’s our passion for design and an extensive network of international partners that ensures our business continues to flourish.

RS: I began my career at Massey University’s School of Creative Arts in New Zealand, where I studied Industrial Design. This was followed by various roles in exhibition, interiors and furniture design before joining Astro in 2017 as Senior Designer. I’ve always had a love for materials and an intrigue of manufacturing processes. It’s how the two elements come together to create timeless luminaires that fascinates me and inspires me to innovate the approach to design.

What was the starting point for the Capsule Collection? 

RS: Like most, it started with a pencil sketch in our design books, drawing upon influences from the world around us. The Capsule Collection gave us the platform to liberate our creative process and reinforce Astro’s design led approach.

JB: Working closely with our team of on-site engineers we have developed collection of products that still honour the DNA of core Astro product, with a confidence to hold their own in any space. They are bold and visually strong, each with a delicacy that quietly compliments a design scheme.

Where did you find inspiration for the Capsule Collection? 

JB: Mechanical machines have always fascinated me; gears, cogs, chains and their interactions in analogue mechanical devices. My love of lights and my fascination with Orreries obsessed me to design the Orb, an orb of light at its centre about which a planet mirror orbits… For years I kept coming back and refining the design to capture the essence of an Orrery in a functional light, the Orb.

RS: The io Pendant light takes inspiration from the fluted detailing of the ancient Greek Ionic pillars. Using the unique production process of gravity-fed glass extrusion, the io Pendant takes a circular 2D design and extrudes the glass downwards to create a perfectly ribbed cylindrical form. I wanted the glass to be the hero of the product, so we stripped all unnecessary components to keep it as simple and minimal as possible, allowing light to subtly reflect and refract off the glass.  The concept for the Halftone also began as a basic pencil to paper sketch, focusing on the simple form of a circle. I then started to look at how incorporating an intricate pattern could be used to bring translucent, clear acrylic to life. We experimented with different processes, settling on the precision that laser etching achieves.

Which materials did you select for this collection and why?

JB: Integrity and honesty of material choices are at the heart of this collection. The Orb is a glowing pure white glass sphere around which a mirror planet orbits, whilst Halftone is all about taking a single material of etched acrylic and elevating it to beauty by its surface treatment. The io Pendant, is a length of molten glass extruded and cooled into an exquisite liner profile, so the clarity of the glass and refraction of light are the magic of the piece.

Which settings are these models designed to be specified for? Are there any features which make them specifically suitable?

JB: Primarily designed to be positioned alongside a bathroom mirror, the Orb provides useful task lighting with an appreciable sense of design and can be partnered with the single Orb light for a compete design scheme.

RS: Halftone is ideal for a hospitality setting such as an entrance way or as a sculptural installation within a space, as the transparency of the acrylic allows the wall to still be visible, both when the light is switched on or off. It’s also designed in two sizes and depths so can be layered to produce more intense and striking illumination that will add interest to the surrounding architecture. With our io pendant I like the idea of the pendant being used above a dining table. It would add a sense of drama and elegance to the space and as the pendant is dimmable, you can control the mood to create a unique lighting experience.

Why is the quality of lighting important in specific settings and how do the Capsule Collection models achieve this? 

JB: For Astro, the engineering of each product must be of the highest standard. The products need to operate effortlessly so one does not even consider the engineering solution that lies at the heart of it. However, often the simplest of designs require complex engineering. This is true with the Orb, where we refined each part of the design process to ensure the delicate moving parts were robust, but with a sense of lightness, masking a complex engineering solution behind its simplicity.

What were your key considerations when designing and developing the Capsule Collection models?

JB: Astro products have always been guided by our creative ethos that ‘good design demands simplicity’ and our collections aren’t dictated by trends. They are rooted firmly in the now, but with a timeless quality that avoids the vagaries of fashion. Our goal is to create products that withstand the test of time, not to be frequently replaced and we take care to refine and consider each element, so product blends seamlessly with any space for many years to come.

Contact Astro Lighting through BCFA Product Finder.

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About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
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