The Midwinter Collection by Laura Carlin

The New Craftsmen present two cast bronze lamps by Laura Carlin, in an extension of the Midwinter collection. Laura first began working on the Midwinter design during her residency at Holkham Hall in 2021, facilitated by The New Craftsmen. The Midwinter Mirror was her first foray into working with metal. Guided by The New Craftsmen, Laura has continued to collaborate with the same bronze forge to explore her unique designs in the form of lighting.

The collection is inspired by the fireplace in Holkham Hall’s North Dining Room, which is illustrated with Aesop’s Fables.

“I am always drawn to stories, especially the smaller or quieter ones in the background. My job as a book illustrator means that I have to visualise narratives - trying to tell them in engaging, imaginative ways and bring them to life. There is so much glamour and gold at Holkham, that the dining room and its grey fireplace, with Aesop’s Fables being told around it, could easily be missed,” she shared.

“Looking more closely, the story is beautifully engraved in stone. Holkham Hall also owns an exquisite book of the fables in its library. I have always loved the Aesop Fables because they are short, timeless and yet leave a lot of room for the imagination. Having animals and nature as the main characters softens the punch of the moral. I could immediately see the scope of translating these traditional stories into lighting.”

With these simple tales as a starting point, Laura began sketching, creating maquettes and making paper cut outs. Along with the exploration in narratives, she considered the possibilities in scale, texture and tactility.

After looking at many of the fables, Laura chose The Ant and the Dove to exaggerate the height and majesty of the floor lamp, with the dove in a high branch looking down upon the ant creeping up the base, and The Fir-Trees and the Bramble to create a more intimate table lamp:

“They both touch on the themes of strength, friendship and freedom. It was a lot of fun to form the different animals out of modelling clay, as well as playing with the lamp form to represent the tree and all of its roots and branches. So much of the process is taking away and editing; throwing everything at it and then gradually stripping elements away, so that you're left with just the vital parts of the narrative.”

Laura carefully made each tiny creature with sculptors clay, working closely with the foundry and The New Craftsmen team to develop the design into something with stature but still belonging to nature. The final model of each lamp was taken through a process of wax casting to form a ceramic shell, before being cast in bronze. Laura added “it is such a huge process to start with a drawing and finish with a bronze light, but a very enjoyable one!”

The conversation between the lights and their shades allowed Laura to play with colour, mood and atmosphere. Again, Laura made maquettes, this time from card, using ink, acrylic, pastel and pencil. She noted that it was important not to get too comfortable working flat as they completely transform when they are seen in their 3D form and alongside the lamp.

She has produced two lampshades which differ in feel; the Strawberry design is intimate, detailed and compliments the intricacy of the table lamp while the Dandelions are much lighter, more open and expressive. The original artworks were painted with inks, wax resist and oil pastel, then scanned at a high resolution using a drum scanner, before being giclée printed onto textured white card, to be handmade into a shade. The lamps are also available with a white Khadi, handmade paper made from cotton rag, shade with a deckled edge.

“I would love these lamps and their shades to stand within a room, not push forward, but sing when you get a little closer and look more carefully.”

Discover the enchanting Midwinter collection by Laura Carlin below.

A Fir-Tree said boastingly to the Bramble, “You are useful for nothing at all; while I am everywhere used for roofs and houses.” The Bramble answered: “You poor creature, if you would would only call to mind the axes and saws which are about to hew you down, you would have reason to wish that you had grown up a Bramble, not a Fir-Tree.” - The Fir-Trees and the Bramble, Aesop’s Fables