William Brand from Brand van Egmond provides in-depth insight into his atelier, its core values, and the future of design.
Brand van Egmond is a household name in the lighting sculpture industry. Every year, the design atelier launches new handcrafted lighting collections that are evocative, characterful, and radiate a powerful sculptural presence. For William Brand, the founder and designer of Brand van Egmond, autonomy remains at the very core of his artistic and personal existence.
Unsurprisingly, besides creating lighting sculptures, William also works on architectural, interior projects, and commissioned works. The accumulated experience and knowledge that he and his team has gathered have translated some of the world’s most unique lighting wishes into handcrafted reality. Prestige Indonesia chats with the renowned designer and sculptor about the design atelier, its collections, and more.
Can you tell us a bit about how Brand van Egmond began?
I studied as an architect and sculptor at the Utrecht School of Arts here in the Netherlands. After graduating, I took several apprenticeships, but in 1989 I set up my own atelier. I wanted to be able to create absolute freedom and autonomy; this is only possible in one’s own atelier. Our first pieces were noticed by several unique individuals, from royals to rappers, and art galleries. For instance, our Hollywood collection, created in the ’90s, became somewhat of an icon. It was immediately used to light up the Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles, propelling us straight away into the American market. This collection was then also adopted by luxury houses like Chopard and Louis Vuitton for their boutiques.
What has been the most challenging or memorable piece you have designed so far?
Tough question to answer, as I have worked on so many unique spaces, from the most intimate of residences to the most public of art museums. I dare say that every lighting sculpture has a soul and therefore adds a unique touch to an interior. To achieve this, I put my own heart in it every single time, and I always work with 100-percent passion on every project.
Besides my regular collections, I am frequently commissioned to create unique lighting installations. This can be for an art museum, like at Istanbul Modern, but once also for a shopping mall in the Middle East. That was a lighting installation of 26 meters. A recent project I much enjoyed was actually in Indonesia, where I worked on new lighting sculptures, tailormade especially for the client who wanted to open a leading new hotel in Bali called Jumeirah Hotel. I had taken my family to this beautiful island before and thought to combine some of the unique and artisanal aspects of Balinese culture with our handwork.
Back in 2020, you launched The Orpheus collection, which is sourced from mines around the world. What was the idea behind this collection and what was the process of creating it like?
I was invited by the German firm Nymphenburg Porcelain Manufactory – which is established in 1747 just outside Munich – to consider using their beautiful porcelain in my light art. This is how the first Orpheus was created: with poignant white porcelain rose, held in a protective embrace by the bronze-casted arm.
As little children, we all came back home with our pockets full of stones and we treated them as our most precious treasures. That feeling of wonder and longing, which resides deep in us, is what I wanted to stir and reconnect with further. Hence my search for precious stones and minerals, working with mines from around the world, to further expand this collection.
It is very raw, earthy, and primal. I am mesmerised by the beauty our planet offers, often in clear view, and at times dug from underneath the earth’s crust. It is amazing to see the requests for this collection currently coming in from people that have clear esoteric views on precious stones, to clients requesting us to search for specific colours.
“An object from my atelier is so evocative, that it holds within her the capacity to lift and alter the whole identity of a space”
Is there something that you strive to infuse all your creations with?
With my work, I wish to stir the imagination and surprise the eyes that find my sculptures of light. They should also become conversation pieces. Each of them can speak in different ways to people. An object from my atelier is so evocative, that it holds within her the capacity to lift and alter the whole identity of a space.
How would you describe your personal design style?
I work on the cutting edge of art, crafting, and design. I don’t adapt to interior trends so I can’t be placed in a certain design trend period or style. Besides that, the collections are so diverse that one object has nothing to do with another object in the collection. The different art pieces each have their own identity. I can use the metaphor of having children. You can’t say “I make only one kind of children, all with a similar character.” This is simply not be possible. For different clients, we make different lighting sculptures with different characters but always with an authentic and unique result.
When designing a project, what is the most crucial factor for you?
I usually have several concepts that I am working on, either in my head – my personal “cloud” as my team calls it at times – or in the atelier. As a cook stirring several pots and pans at the same time, I work and tweak my way forward – and frequently backward – until I am fully content. Many of these concepts do not materialise, but several do. As I am frequently commissioned to create new lighting installations, I am constantly fed information on spaces, characters of people, and their wishes. This is an endless supply of inspiration.
We heard that in this year’s The European Fine Art Foundation (TEFAF), you will present a new sculpture. Can you tell us a little bit about this piece? What’s the main story that you want to tell with this new sculpture and what’s the inspiration behind it?
The object is specially created for TEFAF, where 7,000 years of art history is on display. As long as we humans exist, we have collected things for their beauty. It’s also in our nature to create things. Homo sapiens already carried the tradition of painting realistic images on the walls of caves since pre-historic times in what is seen as one of the first forms of art. I saw it as a challenge to create a sculpture that connects with our primal roots of experiencing beauty in its purest form.
It is an unusually raw and primal object, significantly different from my previous works. I wanted it to appear as if the object simply washed up on the shore. So primal, that it only needs a simple candle to complete it. TEFAF, being the leading art fair in the world, did not exactly smile when I requested the possibility of using a real candle, hence I did in the end make sure it is wired for electricity as well.
What do you love the most about your work?
I like the creation process in the atelier the most. Although this is a lonely process, it gives me the highest satisfaction. In most of my works, I have “chaos” as a theme. In this chaos I create order and I like to detect common sense, but this is a delicate process because when you go too far you will lose the power. It is playing with harmony and disharmony with tension and logic. This exploration is very satisfying and similar to what a painter or a musician goes through.
To finally find the “groove” is this happy moment you’re looking for and is the pinnacle of my job. I know this is not a normal process because most designers work from constructing things and most designers work on a computer. I work in the atelier and like to include coincidence and experiments. So, I am not designing behind a computer but I work as a sculptor and my products grow out of my hands. This gives a stronger emotion from the brain, through the hands, direct in the sculpture.
What would you say is a particularly interesting trend at the moment in the design world?
I’m not busy with trends in the design world because I create objects that sustain decades and sometimes generations. But of course, you see the current trend of more natural and honest materials – a certain minimalistic style – with beautiful decorative elements as an accent. You see more and more the interiors in a beautiful minimalistic balance where only a few objects, like art, take attention. We frequently see our lighting sculptures set in these settings.
What do you think will be the focus in the design world in the future?
I see more respect for authentic creativity, and more appreciation for authentic and natural materials because we realise that we have limited resources. We all want longer-lasting designs with deeper values and longer lifetimes. For me, it makes sense to no longer create new collections on a yearly basis, despite this being the most fun part of the job.
How has your vision for the brand and your approach to designing for the brand evolved?
The core value of the brand is still topical: “We create lighting as an art piece with a soul, giving character to the whole interior.” At this moment I feel that the soul can be with a less loud voice. This means a less decorative, but more quiet character. In addition, we still do everything in-house, from creating the first concept to the actual crafting. We even make our own boxes! Where others were primarily led by concepts like efficiency, we focussed first of all on autonomy and quality. One of the side effects was resilience: due to this almost manic approach of doing everything ourselves, we could manage to continue to be open and create every day during the complications of the last years.
Now, you’ve been in the business for quite a long time. Do you still enjoy the process of designing as you did when you first began?
I enjoy it more every day. The creative process of every new design is again a new exciting voyage but on less paved roads.
What aspects of the atelier do you still want to develop further?
I like to develop more artisan skills within my team in different kinds of disciplines. For myself, I like to develop more knowledge in casted bronze, glass blowing but also 3D printing.
Last but not least, how do you see Brand van Egmond evolving further in the future?
I feel we need to make less volume of the same models of lights, but more focus on unique projects. So, more commissioned works for special clients. My very first chandeliers were shown and sold through art galleries, and more and more we are moving back to the art world.