On a mission to encourage people to stop and think about where the products they buy come from and who it is that makes them, designer and founder of Sala Verde Lighting, Nikki Lisle certainly has a passion for provenance. Working with communities of artisans around the world, Nikki designs and oversees the production of Sala Verde’s range of truly original and unique lighting while simultaneously ensuring time honoured traditions and methods are maintained and the community has an industry to support them.
Having studied at the International School of Colour and Design in Sydney, Nikki discovered the power that comes from self belief and went on to establish Sala Verde as an anti cookie-cutter and mass produced lighting and homewares brand that is truly individual in style and unique in design.
We asked Nikki to share her story with us…
Nikki the Sala Verde lighting range is very much a collaborative exercise between artisan communities and yourself. How do you go about sourcing the artists that you would like to work with?
Sourcing can be a long, slow process – researching, finding, communicating, trialling then building up a strong relationship and collaboration with the right makers. There is no one method of sourcing the right people. I have found some through people I know. I have sourced some through trade shows and even some through Google! These days more and more, makers are finding me. Although this can make it faster, there is still a lot of sifting, research and trialling to do before working out whether or not we can work together.
You have been described as an anthropologist, a designer, a collaborator, a social entrepreneur and an environmentalist. Which of these do you feel is the most important for you personally?
They are all equally important to what I do and who I am. Some weeks I have my old anthropologist hat on and I’m researching tribal design. With my environmentalist hat on, I might be emailing the FSC about wood and illegal logging. Other weeks, my designer hat is on and I’m trying to extract a concept out of my head and convert it into sketches, measurements and descriptions.
What’s really important to me personally though is the part where I can help the people, the artisans. Help to give them employment, a sense of pride in what they produce and to help strengthen their traditional skills and craftsmanship.
Can you share with us how you got into designing lighting?
Sala Verde started out sourcing homeware with a strong emphasis on lighting. I moved into designing more of our range as my understanding and appreciation of my maker’s capabilities grew, and because I yearned for a more creative outlet.
Pendant lights in particular can bring sculpture, function, warmth and individuality into a space. The material, shape and colour options are endless. The way they can transform a whole room or even a corner can create a WOW and can change the way one feels in that space.
What has been your key challenge in starting your own brand and what has been the most rewarding part of it?
A key challenge at the start was to nail down Sala Verde’s identity and ethos and not sway from it.
The most rewarding part of having my own brand would have to be to the loyalty, the recognition and the interest I receive from the amazing people I deal with.
You studied at the International School of Colour and Design. What was the key message you took from your time studying there?
“You’ve got to love what you do. And you’ve got to believe in yourself.” From there, the world’s your oyster and you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to get into design whether it’s designing their own product or designing a room for a client?
Listen and feel. Don’t dictate. If you are designing for a client, learn who they are and how they live …and design their space specifically for them. If designing products listen to your instincts, don’t just follow trends, as your designs will be short-lived. But most of all, just know that anything worthwhile takes time, persistence and a lot of hard work.
What’s ahead in 2015 for Sala Verde?
New designs. More designs. We have a good core group of makers and artisans now. We’re going to keep them busy.
Finally, we would love to know, save for world peace, if you could be granted one wish for 2015 what would it be?
I wish the “slow movement” would hurry up and catch on. I want everyone to realise that good things take time and are more worthwhile in the long run. Be it the designing and making of furnishings, to the growing and preparation of good food, to the nurturing and fostering of our friendships and relationships. Let’s all work on these now and I’m sure world peace will follow.