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Simon Day - Nocturne 

Nocturne is based on the idea that the best form always follows function. Our lamps are designed with a clean, minimal aesthetic in mind, but are nevertheless luxurious in colour, finish and design.

Our materials, brass, sustainably-sourced hard-woods and aluminium are used to construct lamps to the highest level of craftsmanship designed to last and age beautifully over time.

Nocturne was established by Simon Day in 2011 drawing design inspiration from architecture, workshop machinery and the 20th-century design sensibilities of companies and designers such as Kandya, Stag and PEL, Ernest Race, Anni Albers, Frank Guille, Eileen Gray and Jean Prouve.

From its workshop in Manchester, Simon leads a small team of specialist craftspeople making our lamps to order, so we can adapt our designs to work with your home or interior project. 


How did you get started?

I went to college at Wimbledon School of Art in 1994 to study and make sculpture. I moved towards fine art having left the design module at my foundation year in Brighton as I'd found the design briefs frustratingly limited and I just wanted to make objects to play with materials and form. I worked throughout college at the Tate bookshop and the friends I made there who were a bit older than me and were practising artists, designers were influential in encouraging me to try to keep a practise going after leaving college. After a great experience assisting the British Council at the 1995 Istanbul Biennial I got a part time job installing art exhibitions and artworks at the Lisson Gallery in London. 

Through a friend I got a part time job in an antique restoration workshop in west London, in some old railway arches. Tom the owner and Ian worked for the dealers on the Lilley Road, Old Brompton Road and various other areas fixing up their old chandeliers and lanterns so they could be sold on. I had metal working experience through art school and I've always loved old objects, but it was challenging and often delicate work. 


What I loved was taking apart an old lantern for example, learning how it was made, stripping out the rust and damaged parts and then making new ones that we would then be able to fix it with. Sometimes the repair would be 'honest' and visible, on others we would try to match it in the the original parts to hide the fix. Often we'd have to make the tools to enable us to fix the job, and we had a few Victorian sheet metal workshop manuals that helped us figure some processes. 


I worked at this workshop with Ian after Tom died for nine years before moving on to work for friends at Cox London in Tottenham where I managed the workshop for five years before setting up on my own in 2011. 


I had been working on lamp designs for a few years in the evenings after work, I was lucky enough that my bosses allowed me to use their workshop after hours, the name Nocturne came from my late light evenings making my lamps. After leaving Cox London Initially I didn't have a workshop or any transport other than my old post mans bike, my flatmates happy for me to use our front room to layout the odd table frame, but it was impractical. I gained clients by word of mouth and recommendations which was great and I still work for the first interior design studio that I had a meeting with that first January. My first workshop was in Sussex in my parents old garage, I spent the week down south making and weekends in London at home. Having worked in London for so long with may suppliers, I had to find a few new ones closer to the workshop, I really enjoyed this process as it gave me a confidence that I could set up anywhere and make my business work. 

Can you describe your creative practise and processes?


I often find an object or a couple of objects that become a conduit for a lamp design, could be something as random as an old wing nut or a lump of steel which has a certain cut or finish, often I have the object/s for ages before anything comes of it. Occasionally a design does happen fast which is exciting, as it's so rare, I have a concept in my head which I sketch out in parts and materials as I'm cutting / bending / drilling assembling. For me having in a half formed idea in physical form in front of me in my hands is the only way I can decided whether it works or not. Proportion, balance of shapes and weights all make the thing work or not. Often I take the lamp home for weeks or have it on my desk at the workshop so I can look at it over a tea!


I'd say I'm more inspired by nature and things I see out and about than in design books or museums, although the Charlotte Perriand exhibition we went to see in Paris was one of the best collections of work I've ever seen. Complete design and really thoughtful. 

What have been your most exciting projects? 


Very early on I was lucky enough to have my Otis lamp used in a hotel refurb scheme in Berlin, we were asked to make 325 lamps over 3 years, 180 for the first phase. I'd never made that quantity, so I had to put a lot of thought into scaling up production of the lamp from making a couple by hand. I made a lot mistakes in that first year from basic making to the packing of the lamps, but I noted them down so the following two phases were much more straight forward! I still get the orders from people who have stayed in the hotel and have liked the lamp, which is really nice. 


I've been lucky to work on some great projects with interior designers, quite a few are in central London so I have a walk around to see them when I'm near and have time. 


What do your materials mean to you?


Materials are the starting point of our design process so they are incredibly important. I love working in brass especially and the various finishes that can be achieved with it. I really like bright steel too, as it machines really well and I enjoy hand-filing to soften the sharp edges as we make the parts for our lamps. Getting the perfect cut on the lathe or pillar is very satisfying, as is hand tapping a thread into a drilled hole, feeling the brass or steel cut and move, it feels almost like the hand has it's own memory of the material as to when the tap might break or the hole is almost drilled through so you back off the drill slightly.


I do tend to start with more materials than I end up with, I like taking a design back to its essentials as much as possible. It's process that's at the centre of our workshop, finding materials often show the way forward with a design and along with the functionality hopefully lead to an object that works. 

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