Habitusliving.com Editor Ben Morgan speaks with Angus Hutcheson about his Thai design firm, Ango
If you have a keen eye you may have spotted lights from Ango in our recent story on Hannah Tribe. We were so impressed that we knew we had to (design) hunt them down for a chat.
Here we talk to Angus Hutcheson, Chief Designer of Ango.
How did Ango begin and what’s the story behind the company?
Originally I’m from London, and came to live in Thailand around 8 years ago, having already decided to move direction from architecture into furniture and lighting design, which I’d always been really interested in.
Early lighting designs were developed in 2003, and shown at our friends’ store Panta in Bangkok, but we soon found it was almost impossible to find any established entity who could carry out fabrication for us, leading us into creating and training our own teams of skilled craftspeople to realise our pieces.
So instead of designers, we became designers and producers also, and then a little later began also to focus increasingly on materials development.
Our design team’s made up of Aon Benjamapa, Pui Chutitanawong, and myself working together in quite a loose experimental way from our base in Bangkok, and our pieces usually come about through quite a push/pull process between the concept, the design process, and the technique and materials being put into play.
What sort of things do you design?
Well the intention originally was to design and develop furniture and lighting, but there just seems to be such magic and potential in lighting, and the furniture’s taken rather a back seat with just a few pieces of indoor/outdoor developed so far.
What inspires you as designers?
A formative inspiration was a creative/destructive one – the bashing out of areas of brick walls in a mysterious old stables building that had no windows at all, at the age of around seven years old, and discovering the magic of shafts of light cutting the darkness from the penetrations I’d made.
Then came the paranoia that all the brickwork above the ragged openings could collapse any moment and the realization that something called a lintel was required to prevent this!
I do also look a great deal at the richness and sometimes-apparent chaos in the urban landscape, with the often-extraordinary juxtapositions we’ve created, but also at the elegance of different forms of nature (one reference that’s been with me for many years is “Patterns in Nature” by Peter S. Stevens, which is a beautiful concise study).
Does your locality affect how you design?
Sometimes I’m asked are our designs Thai, which is an interesting question. I’m obviously not Thai, but I think that there is a very rich array of materials and techniques available in Thailand, and this means that our designs have certainly been influenced by our being developed there.
Then also it would be very hard to carry out the kind of fabrication that we’re engaged in anywhere else apart from Thailand, as there’s a high level of concentration, almost Zen-like, that our artisans employ in our production, involving repetitive, meditative, systemic even obsessive processes… so overall certainly yes, a strong part of our identity is that of Thainess.
Your lighting ranges are receiving a lot of international attention, why do you think people are so captivated by them?
I think there is clearly a movement in the last few years for consumers to move towards objects that are the opposite of mass production, but rather where the intention, the method of production, as well as the design are all on a wavelength that they can feel emotional attachment to, and where ownership becomes a kind of relationship as well as a personal statement.
Then I guess we’re creating unique pieces that encapsulate inventiveness and luxuriousness and much of this is achieved via the depth of our own production techniques, with the perception being that we have an enlightened environmentally responsible world view of how 21st century design and production can be, with each individual product an emblem of this vision.
Can you tell us a bit about the materials you use in your work – the lighting particularly?
The materials we work with are generally either “found” natural materials, or composite/natural ones developed by experimentation, which are then used to create a lighting piece or installation, and the decision to go ahead and use each material is made after testing and observing how they diffuse light in different ways.
For instance, much of the magic of using silk cocoon as a light diffuser stems from light being refracted by the material at different angles, so producing subtly different colors, and levels of luminosity. But without carrying out a great deal of experimentation in the first place, we couldn’t have known about this.
Where to next for Ango?
Overall, I feel we’ve hardly started, but right now is an exciting time for us, and we have many new designs and experiments underway – its just quite unpredictable when any particular project will come to finalisation.
It’s also of course an exciting time in lighting generally with a great surge forward particularly in LED technology.
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