Born into a family of architects, painters and furniture makers, a career path in design was something of a natural progression for Brooklyn-based lighting designer Bec Brittain. Having grown up in Washington DC, “as part of a rare non-government associated family”, Brittain continued the family tradition of design by studying at Parsons and NYU, where she received a degree in philosophy before heading to London, gaining a degree in architecture from The Architectural Association.
“It was quite early that I became a maker,” Brittain tells darc, “it felt so natural and it was through work experience that I was inspired and had the confidence to try it on my own.”
With a career firmly focused on design, Brittain sights her parents as some of her greatest influences when it comes to creating and making: “My father is an excellent woodworker,” she says, “and definitely instilled in me to be very detail orientated; my mother, a painter, helped cultivate a more intuitive side. I always find it so difficult to explain my inspiration… trying to track down where exactly an idea came from is nearly impossible! I have however, really been interested in late ‘60s / early ‘70s Fontana Arte recently!”
Having tried her hand at various aspects of design – from architecture to furniture design and hardware – it was Brittain’s work with Manhattan-based lighting designer Lindsey Adelman that “truly crystalised what had previously been a wandering path”.
For Brittain, it is very much about the unique place lighting resides in that she enjoys: “It is functional yet sculptural. I love working within the boundaries of having to make the piece illuminate and work well in a space, yet also feel very formally free – the ergonomics of lighting are very different than those of a chair for instance.”
Commenting on her career highlights, Brittain continues: “It’s funny, having my own studio has really been an exercise in moving goal posts – there is always something new to accomplish. Growth always feels very significant to me, whether it’s getting a bigger studio or hiring someone new, it’s a satisfying moment of seeing work pay off.”
Having launched a number of new lines, as part of her own collection, at ICFF earlier in the year, Brittain has also been involved with designs for lighting supplier Roll & Hill, also based in New York. Having known Roll & Hill’s Jason Miller from her early days of working at Lindsey Adelman’s studio, Brittain had always been impressed by how he approached design, engineering and manufacturing work and so when the opportunity to work with him came about, it was of course an exciting moment. “His team shares so many of the philosophies about how to make things, yet has more manpower and experience to devote to projects,” says Brittain.
Looking ahead, as well as promoting her latest designs, Brittain is set to take part in Design Miami later this year, showcasing a piece in collaboration with the Patrick Parrish Gallery. Commenting on the lighting industry as a whole, Brittain concludes: “Lighting allows me to think about what is being made in multiple ways, not only towards what the form will be, but also in the effects the lights will create.
“It’s been amazing to see how many new lighting designers have sprung up in the last year; I think it will be very interesting to see what results from it. Is this an indication of what a broad market there is for lighting? Or, will it be a case of survival of the fittest? In any event, I try my best to stay true to my style and vision and make the best work I can.”
Pic: Lauren Coleman