At Work With: David Weeks
David Weeks has been at the forefront of the New York design scene for the past 25 years. A student of sculpture and painting, Weeks brings a tactile approach to anything he turns his hand to – be it lighting, furniture or wooden toys. As we continue to celebrate the launch of Echo, our second design collaboration with David Weeks, we spoke to him from his studio in Brooklyn to get his thoughts on creativity, catharsis and Castiglione.
Echo is the second in your series of lighting concepts for Tala, following the launch of Reflection in 2020. How does Echo differ?
I find the Reflection series to be more accessible, while Echo is a little more ethereal. They are made up of multiple bulbs on a central spine, while the bulb placement is irregular which give the fixtures an individualistic look.
When you were conceptualising the Echo series, did you have a particular interior setting in mind, or do you focus solely on the design of the product first?
The idea was an exercise in balancing irregularity. Like Reflection, we started with Tala’s light bulbs – the Sphere IV – and then went about creating a fixture with multiple bulbs. The spine of the fixture is wonderfully banal, as it calls very little attention to itself, but once the bulbs are installed, the form of the fixture is complete.
How do you approach a new design? Is it a pencil and pad with a cup of coffee, or do you go straight to the computer?
The computer rarely comes first. I often quickly flip through a printed book or various magazines and interpret what my eyes see. It helps to avoid predictability.
What, or who, would you say has been the main influence on your design style?
There are many influences, but at this point in my career time and intension is the ultimate influence.
You’ve been a leading figure in the New York lighting design scene for the past few decades. What was the industry like when you first started out in the 1980s and 1990s?
It was very small. I didn’t realise that it was so small at the time but seeing how things have blown-up during my career is startling. It used to be hard to get people to invest in higher ticket “design.” Now it’s the opposite, and the new generation of designers are racing to the top.
We hear your designs were popular with a lot of musicians and artists in New York when you were coming up – namely the Beastie Boys. What is it about your style that you think resonated (and still resonates) with this crowd of creatives?
I think creativity begets creativity. I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts recently, primarily interviews with musicians, and the creative storyline is well trod. Someone needs to revise Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken”. I feel like so many creative paths are trampled and worn, each one chopped down using Google image search as the machete.
You studied painting and sculpture as a student. Are these skills that you still employ?
Yes. Painting is still the best example to explain the process of creating. It’s the rare art form that allows you to create and destroy at the same time. It’s also reactionary. It requires the commitment to see it to its resolutions. Hubris is a great starting point, but completion is still the ultimate challenge.
As well as lighting, you also make wooden toys. Was that a way of breaking out of the demands and restrictions of high-end lighting and furniture?
The toys have been exactly that, cathartic.
What would be your main piece of advice for budding designers looking to break into the design world?
Eat your Wheaties. Or at least get a good breakfast….
Who is your design hero?