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18 INTERIORS & SOURCES FEBRUARY 2015 interiorsandsources.com
By AnnMarie Martin | Photography by Jersey Walz
Designer Kevin Walz was on the other side of the Atlantic when he first began developing prototypes for Mercury and Vesuvius—his additions to ILEX’s Portfolio Collection. By the time they were released last year, he’d made the move back
home to New York City from Rome.
ILEX, an American lighting manufacturer committed to
maintaining their production facilities in Taunton, Mass. is a
subsidiary of the 65-year-old lighting brand Norwell, and
was founded in 2000 in order to preserve their manufacturing in the states. “They wanted to keep these highly
skilled people working because they treasured them.
And that hooked me,” said Walz. “I said, ‘I’m in.’”
But a couple of years ago, fear arose that the brand
was getting stale.
Enter the Portfolio collection, launched at WantedDesign 2014.
This all-star lineup included partnerships with six American designers:
Michael Graves, Laura Kirar, Christopher Poehlmann, Mick Ricereto, Michael
Wolk, and of course Walz, whose previous work includes product lines for
Wolf Gordon, Tufenkian Carpets, and Ralph Pucci, among others.
His designs for ILEX, however, didn’t make it for the big NYC Design
“They were too difficult,” he explained. “But I said, ‘That’s the good
news. Nobody in the world is going to be able to copy these.’”
So the search began for the proper partners to achieve Walz’ proposed
dimensions, or get them at least as close as possible. The result was a
study in form and materials for the storied designer and this traditionally
brass focused company.
ILEX is no stranger to metal spinning, but for Walz it was his first introduction to the process. “We’re very fortunate to have a gentleman from
Italy with us for 35 years who’s been in metal spinning for over 40 years,”
said Ben Duggan, ILEX’s vice president of new product development. (For
more information on the process of metal spinning, see page 20.)
The subsequent shapes that became Mercury and Vesuvius had been
bouncing around Walz’ brain for quite some time. But his thought process
was more focused on qualities of light, rather than fixtures. "I was thinking,
'What kind of fixtures am I always having trouble finding?'" he said.
While for both models he envisioned a very luminous, “liquidy” kind of
surface, Mercury features reflective light, achieving a very soft, gentle, blanketed
effect. Vesuvius was an experimentation in down light with its hammered,
industrial bronze-finished brass, funnel-shaped baffle. Mercury’s is dome-shaped and made from a hammered nickel-plated brass. While both baffles
are built out of the ILEX factory in Massachusetts, both main bodies are
spun (aluminum) in China in one of their partner facilities, as they did not
possess a lathe large enough to create each 22-inch anchor. The factory
was able to produce it in one continuous form with no seam.
“This was not easy,” Walz said. And he couldn’t be prouder of
ILEX’s efforts to create these pieces to both of their satisfaction. We
can expect more from this team in the future.
His collaboration is a great case study for his graduate students at
both the Pratt Institute and Parsons The New School of Design. “Don’t
worry if you think it can’t be done,” he tells them. “Draw what you want,
then you’ll find out how close you can get.”
And with the right partner, anything is possible.
ILEX circles the planet to create designer Kevin Walz’ additions to the brand’s Portfolio lighting collection.
TOP + ABOVE Baffles for both Mercury and Vesuvius are available in either hammered industrial bronze-finished brass or hammered nickel-plated brass. Walz’ hand-drawn sketches of
Mercury and computer renderings by Duggan brought the concept to life.