Tabletop designer tries her hand at lighting design
April 14, 2009 - 12:00pm

lighting designers
Two-limb pendant by Sarah Cihat and Michael Miller

Tabletop designer Sarah Cihat of Rehabilitated Dishware turns her talents to lighting design with the help of friend and metalsmith Michael Miller.

Cihat: The lights I have done are all co-designed with my best friend, Michael Miller, who is a metalsmith. We went to the Parsons School of Design [in New York City] together. She knows about metal, and I know about clay and porcelain, and we wanted to use these two mediums and see if we could make something together.

Starting [one of our designs] is collaborative right from the start. I’ll start talking about shapes that I want to do, and Michael will talk about architecture that she wants to do for the piece, and we will try to get the two ideas to meld. We’ll ask ourselves: “Is it feasible? How difficult will it be? Will it cost too much?” It comes down to our capabilities and trying to make something awesome and fun.

The chain [that we’ve used] on the outside of some of the pieces has a spider web effect. Every single plane on the faceted pieces also has an edge and a line. When it is not lit, you see the chain web, and then when it is lit, you see the chain and the internal structure of the porcelain and the different lines and the seams on the inside. So both [elements] mimic each other, and it’s a nice effect.

I like to take design cues from nature in some sort of way, like rocks and stones and ice crystals -- it’s almost biological and molecular. I like it when something seems logical, when you might say, “I never would have thought of that.” Of course, I want [what we create] to be beautiful and eye-catching. I want to make things that people will want to keep for a long time, things that are special. I don’t like designing for obsolescence -- things that are cool right now and then you get rid of [them] in the next year. I despise that sort of style.

My [line of] dishes is very colorful, and people seem to like that about them. But my porcelain pieces are monochromatic. I tend not to glaze them, which is fine because porcelain becomes vitreous when fired. [For our lighting,] I like bringing the porcelain and the metal together and not just using the metal as the [fittings]; it is nice to use metal as a decorative element.

I feel like I’m just getting started as far as lighting is concerned. I want to explore manipulating porcelain in the kiln and then putting that into lighting somehow. I have a lot of different ideas in my head that I want to get out with time, of course. I love working with Michael. It’s very fulfilling, and we make a good team. It is nice to work with someone else and to really let go of the reins. With the dishes, it’s just me. So, it’s nice to have someone else’s perspective and help and ideas.

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