In the studio: Michael Anastassiades talks design process and plans for the future

Named Maison & Objet Designer of the Year 2020, the lighting maverick gives us a teaser of his big upcoming show…

Michael Anastassidaes Studio London, home of the renowned lighting designer
Lewis Khan

At January’s Maison & Objet in Paris (17–21 January) Michael Anastassiades will be crowned the fair’s Designer of the Year. It’s an honour that chimes personally with the lighting maestro, who, over a decade ago, first boarded a train to the French capital with a flat-packed stand packed in his bag to exhibit his designs. ‘At that time, I wasn’t even thinking commercially,’ he says. ‘I remember people coming to my stand and asking me where they could buy things and I didn’t know!’

Today, things are very different. From his studio in the cobbled back streets of Camden, London, the designer now commands the two arms of his business: Michael Anastassiades, which sells his products, and Studio Michael Anastassiades, which is the brand’s design hub. It’s a white-walled, light-filled creative engine room, and the perfect place to discuss the upcoming exhibition, his working process and his plans for the future…

Renowned lighting designer Michael Anastassiades
Michael Anastassiades

How do you feel upon being named Designer of the Year by Maison & Objet?
It’s nice to be invited and to be honoured this year. Interestingly, Maison was the first fair I ever showed at, so this is a little bit of a comeback. I remember meeting my first-ever client at Maison. She was a French designer who was interested in using my ball lights for a hotel project. At the time I thought, ‘How am I going to do this?’. It was overwhelming, but it pushed me to learn how to develop the project. I bumped into her about a year ago and she said she still loves and buys my work – it was a very moving experience. Maison remains a very special fair for me. It is a great platform that gives young designers a lot of opportunities.

Can you give us a preview of what you will you be displaying at the fair?
I chose to focus on light with this show, even though we are doing so many other projects, because this is what everybody knows me for. We are looking at one family of light fixtures, which is the ‘Mobile Chandeliers’. I started making them 10 years ago and my idea, at that time, was that nobody was doing lights in the form of mobiles. I was totally fascinated with the idea of having a structure in perfect equilibrium.

Today there are 16 configurations and it’s a growing family. Normally we only show new pieces – we have never had the opportunity before to show everything together in one room. We are planning to have all of the mobiles fixed with slow-moving motors, so that they spin around. It’s not how we sell them, but it gives people the opportunity to see the pieces from all angles. They become not just planetary, in the sense of moving spheres, but the changing light makes them mesmerising. It will be a meditative experience that communicates the poetry of lighting.

‘Mobile’ chandelier by Michael Anastassiades
‘Mobile’ chandelier by Michael Anastassiades
Michael Anastassiades

How do you maintain a consistent design DNA when you are now working across so many exciting projects?
You have to constantly stop and remind yourself of what the focus is and not be distracted and flattered by so many fantastic opportunities. I am not a designer that wants to change the world in the sense of spreading their signature into everything. If I feel I can’t contribute positively and say something different then I would politely turn the project down. I am not greedy in that way. I’m excited, honoured, but not greedy.

My vision is really to try to serve the notion of timelessness. I don’t believe we should make objects just for the sake of it. If you have nothing different to say, and if you are just referencing something from the past, there is no point. There are so many beautiful things already that if you don’t have your own personal interpretation, why do it?

Michael Anastassiades Studio London
Lewis Khan

Tell us what a working day is like in your studio…
We are all under one roof, which is great because both sides of the practice feed each other. It’s a huge learning thing. We have to try not to speak too loudly, though, so as not to disturb everyone else. I want to keep the scale of the studio very intimate. I don’t want anyone to lose this precious opportunity to connect.

We hardly ever work on the computer. Instead, we usually go straight from sketch to model and then, finally, to the computer. For the Maison & Objet project we are currently making little versions of the chandeliers that will hang in a model of the space.

Do you have any big plans to expand the studio space?
Yes, we will soon have three floors instead of one. We will be excavating the basement, bringing in lots of natural light. This is where we will have the studio for the designers and their model-making facilities. It will isolate the noise and create a bit more privacy. On the ground-floor level will be the brand. We hope to have a lot more examples of our work on display, although we already have a lot today. It’s a part of our lives. There will also be a small floor upstairs that will be mainly my space, as well as an outdoor roof terrace.

‘My vision is really to try to serve the notion of timelessness’

It’s super exciting. We will still be under one roof, which is great, but we will have more space. We will be able to have private phone conversations! At the moment, in the summer, the street is an extended meeting room. When you see somebody walking out with me, it means they need to speak privately. We try not to keep secrets, though.

Michael Anastassiades Studio London
Lewis Khan

What are you working on at the moment?
It’s an important time. We are radically changing our production of the ‘Mobile Chandeliers’ because of new technologies. It’s a significant jump from the way we used to make things. It’s a whole new process, hand-finished by two artisans but highly engineered in every way. I want to communicate the message that what we are doing is not just about the designer, Michael Anastassiades the entrepreneur, but also the way we make things and why it is important to make things in this way. These pieces are almost like watches – beautifully made, but mass-produced. There is a similarity in the complexity.;

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