Design Profile | Gabriel Morrison on the Harmony of Contradictions

Designer Gabriel Morrison of Steppenwolf Design.

French designer cum Aussie native Gabriel Morrison has turned the traditional design world on its head with a youthful exuberance and approach. He continues to push the conversation out of the box of conventional thinking with his latest collection coming out of Steppenwolf Design, a series of lamps called Artisan 4.0. In the following conversation, he was more than forthcoming about where design is going and how the process for the new collection was shaped by a limitless imagination.

CRAVE: Your latest work nods towards the future of design, incorporating 3D printing and connected tech. Yet you remain faithful to some classic aesthetics in the rendering of your lamps. How important is to reconcile the classic and futuristic, and translate them into a viable design? How difficult is it to do? 

Gabriel Morrison : I just love the idea of merging the old with the new, using ancient knowledge and techniques that slowly improved over centuries and joined with modern powerful tools that remain to be fully explored. It’s important for two reasons. On one hand, it makes people work on tangible matter, keeping our knowledge and manual skills at use. On the other hand, new technologies are stimulating for everyone. The design process and result may be experimental but I definitely find it exciting to see these two opposite worlds merged together into viable designs. I think that it can be difficult to be creative in the way the two are reconciled: one should enhance the other in innovative ways but still delicately balanced. In the end, the real difficulty comes down to the collaboration that happen between the designer and the craftsman.

Where did the inspiration come to bring a new lighting collection such as this into being? Your previous collection drew inspiration from nature (bees, honeycombs), where would you say this new collection finds its muse?

It still probably comes from some aspect of nature actually. The titanium mesh was generated using a geometric algorithm called a Voronoi diagram, a pattern fully visible in the world around us: on giraffes hair, on dried mud or on leaves. Last year, the the use of a hexagonal structure was inspired from the world of bees, this time my research led me to use this particular one because of its organic look. The precise geometric pattern is complemented by amorphous glass whose flow is quite impossible to control, a bit like chaos in a controlled structure. 

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You’ve brought together some pristine and equally robust source material for the collection: glass and titanium. What is the underlying tone and ambiance of the collection, given you have such strong source material to render the overall look?

The collection definitely looks and feels uncommon, the materials chosen are rarely seen combined together. Titanium is a light and super strong metal while glass is heavy and pretty fragile. Old and new; light and heavy; hand and machine; strong and fragile; translucent and opaque. The result is full of contradictions that work harmoniously together.

The Hero 1 Artisan 4.0 is Steppenwolf Design’s latest lighting collection.

Walk us through how you crafted these final silhouettes for the collection. The lines and shapes are almost otherworldly, celestial, extraterrestrial even.

The titanium mesh was modeled using digital technology. More precisely, I used a generative 3D modelling software to develop a simple algorithm that generates the pattern of the mesh which can be edited indefinitely. The model is created in titanium using a powerful laser. The choice of titanium was made because of similar thermal properties with glass. The mesh is then heated and molten glass is blown directly into the mesh via an opening. The way the glass flows during the blowing process is hard to control, it bulges over the mesh and seems trapped in place, unable to get out. Finally, the addition of a light makes the overall look feel completely out of this world, like a valuable alien egg.

What is LIFX and how did you come to the idea to use it with the collection?

The previous collection that Steppenwolf Design released was a lamp that uses simple LED light, you can only turn it on or off, nothing more. This time, I wanted to let the user fully interact with the lamp as the different lights almost transform the look of the shape. I chose to use LIFX, a connected smart light bulb company based in the US. The light bulb is connected to Wi-Fi, which lets the user control the various shades of colors or the brightness via their smartphone. It can also be programmed to turn off automatically when you leave the room, flash blue when you receive a Facebook notification or switch to a warmer shade when it rains outside… It’s extremely versatile, easy to use and really impresses friends that are over for dinner.

You are constantly staying ahead of the curve as a young designer. Where do you see the future of design headed in the next few years?

I certainly believe and hope in a return to higher quality/lower quantity. Designed objects should be truly unique and fully customizable to whatever needs and desires. The use of 3D printing and generative design definitely simplifies customization. I also believe in the digital merged with physical, such as connected objects in the Internet of Things. Although all that tech is amazing and cool, it seems almost too sterile, which is the reason why I am convinced in the union of high-tech with handcrafted objects.

Where can people see the collection and order?

At the moment, we are still finalizing the making process. It can be particularly difficult to work with glass as it can be so fragile. At the beginning of the year we should be able to exhibit the lamp at our showroom in Melbourne, and then start custom orders so your light can really represent who you are.

Images courtesy of Steppenwolf Design.