Roll & Hill make the kind of light fittings and fixtures everyone wants to own. Famous for statement pieces that complete an entire room, Roll & Hill products embody a distinctly American aesthetic. Jason Miller is best known for his ubiquitous Superordinate Antler Lamps, a product that has been widely credited with starting the back-to-nature movement in design.
When meeting Jason Miller, CEO and founder of Roll & Hill, I was curious to know exactly what constitutes an ‘American design aesthetic’.
“My answer on one level is simply that, I don’t know,” says Miller who gives a short laugh before qualifying his response. “Primarily most of the design we get exposed to in the States comes from Europe, and that aesthetic is much more minimal, much more streamlined, clean and pure than it is here. I think what appeals to the American market, what constitutes the American design aesthetic is something much richer, much deeper that has a degree of depth and texture to it,” Miller says.
The designer who has his studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn has been a big part of the emerging ‘Made in Brooklyn’ design scene that has developed a broad reputation for independent, often artisanal designers over the last 6 years. In 2007, he was named one of the “Best Breakthrough Designers” by Wallpaper* magazine and in 2010 Jason was named “Young Designer of the Year” by the Brooklyn Museum.
The way he describes his design style recalls the distinctive lights he manufactures. They share a pared back, industrial feel with a distinctively quirky edge. There are nautical baubles jauntily tied up on a rope (Knotty Bubbles), pale pine antlers dotted with flame tip bulbs (The Superordinate) and ethereal square tubes lights that fuse a junk and fine art (Endless lamp).
For Jason Miller, who spent 10 years working as contemporary visual artist before getting into product design, the blurry line between art and popular culture hasn’t always been fused.
“When I was in art school in Indiana I wasn’t goofing around, I was studying very hard and I had every intention of becoming a painter. I was painting a series of interiors in my own home, around 1998, when I suddenly realised that I was more interested in the objects in the paintings than the paintings themselves,” Miller says.
His epiphany was later crystalised when the curator of an art show at Mixed Greens (http://mixedgreens.com/) art gallery in Chelsea, asked him to contribute a sculpture that fused urban and rural elements. That’s when Jason Miller’s uber-successful Superordinate lighting fixture was born and he put his first product design into manufacture.
“The first one was made for an exhibition that was mixing the urban and rural design forms, so the curator put out a call to make a product that looked at that idea, and I took a very traditional rural form – the antler chandelier – and decided to make it in a contemporary, urban kind of way,” Miller says.
“It was definitely a very commercially successful product. It was a hit but I had no idea it would be a success, I sort of went into it very naively,” he says.
The success of the Superordinate range led to fresh collaborations with up-and-coming lighting designers in and around Brooklyn. In January 2010, Miller started Roll & Hill to license designs and fabricate new lighting products.
Roll & Hill currently work with seven designers including Lindsey Adelman, Jonas Damon and Paul Loebach. Recent stand out designs from design collectives include quirky monogram lamps by Partners and Spades and the popular Excel light range from Rich, Brilliant and Willing (pictured above).
If Roll & Hill are at once contemporary and timeless, then Jason Miller doesn’t even try to explain the mash up.
“When I have time off, I try to get out of the city, but I also take photos and I draw as a way of developing designs. My influence as a designer from the iconic people like the Eames’ and from contemporary industrial designers like Konstantin Grcicc. I’m also influenced by the area in which I live in – and by that I mean Brooklyn, Greenpoint and Southern Brooklyn,” Miller says.
Christina Caredes, General Manager at Space Furniture says Roll & Hill caught her eye when the company launched in New York early last year. “Their collection is a breath of fresh air and represents a point of difference to our current lighting collection and to the Australian market in general. Jason Miller, the founder and designer, has a belief in supporting up and coming designers and this is something that resonates with Space. We think this is a brand to watch,” she says. Miller’s next collection for Roll & Hill will be released in New York this coming April.
“The next collection is mainly ceiling mounted lights. I don’t want to give any hints but it really fleshes out the Roll & Hill range while staying close to the bone of what we do,” he says. The 2011 collection from Roll & Hill includes designs from Lindsey Adelman, Jonah Takagi and Lukas Peet. The Roll& Hill range is eagerly anticipated. To view products in the flesh, visit the Space Furniture showroom. Roll & Hill is also distributed throughout Asia in countries including China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Thailand