Those who know me know I have a penchant for lights, particularly those that are different, unique and not run of the mill. So when I discovered Owen Duggan on Etsy I was fascinated by his range of upcycled and created lights which he makes in the beautiful environs of the historic town of Melle in western France. A barn renovation was all it took for his love of making things to turn into a business, The Unique Lighting Company.
Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your background and how you’ve ended up where you are today.
My name is Owen and I have always had to do something practical and with my hands. I would not last at a desk job for a day! About 5 years ago I decided to make the move from hectic London to very quiet rural France.
After renovating an old barn in a new home the one thing that was missing was some suitable lights. I looked everywhere for something a little bit ‘different’ and unusual and was shocked at the lack of anything interesting. I hate the idea of having the same old off-the-shelf choices as everyone ends up with the same thing. So I started designing a couple of lights for my own bedroom and very quickly realised that the options were basically endless, with such an array of materials, techniques, products, designs.
Wall light made from a wooden clog
What’s the appeal of lighting and the process of both restoration and crafting to you?
The main appeal of lighting to me is that it can be something that is very attractive and eye-catching like a piece of art but it can also be switched on and used. And a simple light in the right place can change the look and feel of a whole room.
I love designing and making lights completely from start to finish out of all sorts of materials, but equally love hunting around French brocantes (antique fairs) for some unusual antique and vintage pieces such as old oil lamps and lanterns. What I love most about this is that you never know what you are going to find!
What’s been your proudest achievement or most challenging creation – or both?
My proudest achievement (and by far the most challenging!) is a large floor lamp I have just created for a customer in the U.S. I had already made a small desktop version, and a customer saw this and wanted to know if I could make a much larger version. It is made entirely out of the beautiful exotic wood ‘Niangon’ and has some very cool colour-changing LEDs inside the column, plus slits cut into all the sides to allow tiny bits of light to flow out and create a really subtle and modern feature.
Made from exotic wood ‘Niangon’ and colour-changing LEDs, this light proved a design challenge for Owen
Tell us about your creative process and how you like to work.
My creativeness can come from anywhere, it often starts with a rough sketch in my scrapbook but the design often changes alongside the building process, and sometimes becomes something totally different all together! I have a small workshop on the side of my house, which is where everything happens. Sometimes the materials I have to hand can determine what I am doing next. I hate throwing anything away, even small off-cuts of wood. For instance, the grey lamp (i0n the photo below) is made entirely from off-cuts and scraps.
What’s the importance of upcycling and sustainability for you in your work and home life?
Recycling and upcycling really means a lot to me. I suppose this combined with my hatred of throwing anything away means I am constantly looking at things and thinking ‘what else can it be?’. I absolutely love glass bottles and living in Melle, France being surrounded by wonderful wines means there is never a shortage of bottles! The fact that glass itself is made from a lot of natural materials and is perfect for use with lighting means I love working with it. I have just made an unusual modern little lamp using a mixture of wood and a single beer bottle.
What other interests or hobbies do you have?
Other than being in my workshop most days, my Siberian Husky ‘Jensen’ keeps me company 24/7. He often wanders in to see what I’m up to and reminds me when it’s time for walks which is perfect as I absolutely love going for long walks and seeing parts of France.
I am currently working on … making lights out of wooden logs. I have an almost endless supply of logs and firewood where I am so I have started to see what else I can do with them. I have recently made a single log into an up/down LED wall light which I really loved, but now I find that every time I put another log on the fire I am measuring it in my mind to see if its right for a wall light!
What’s the best thing about living in Melle, Poitou-Charente, France?
The best thing about living here, apart from the wine, is the long hot summers, the peace and quiet, and plenty of open space for walks.
It’s not very cool but I really like … electronics and soldering which come in handy when working with LEDs.
Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought’ moment?
My favourite ‘who’d have thought’ moment was when a French couple arrived at my door one day after seeing a picture of my work locally. They came to see what I did, loved it, and bought three lights, one of which was an outside light that I see proudly displayed by their front door every time I drive past their house.
Thanks so much for your time, Owen!