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Future Classic | Henry Wilson Surface Sconce

  • Future classics regularly feature designers who first made their mark 50 years ago – but in the case of industrial designer Henry Wilson, his Surface sconce, only launched just four years ago, has already sent ‘ripples’ around the world.

    Henry Wilson’s Surface sconce has also made its way into the Powerhouse Museum’s permanent collection. “It’s extremely humbling. When you design something, you don’t set out to create something that might be seen as a future classic,” Henry Wilson says. Henry studied at the Canberra School of Art (now Australian National University School of Art and Design), with a year at the eminent Rhode Island School of Design and a Masters at the Design Academy Eindhoven.

    Shortly after the Surface sconce was released, it was extensively featured in magazines, with leading architects and designers including it for projects, from commercial to high-end residential fit-outs. The initial Surface sconces were produced in bronze or aluminium, with later additions made of blackened bronze, calacatta, arabescato, calacatta viola and black travertine.

    While light sconces are generally seen fixed to walls, Henry’s sconces take the form of a table lamp, with the two concave-shaped dishes fixed to an equally sculptural base. Weighing 10 kilos (for a bronze Surface sconce), it’s a hefty addition in one’s home, both in kilos and design cred. “I wanted to make something that celebrated the industrial quality that comes from working directly with a foundry, giving a sense of the process and revealing the ripples and pitting that occurs,” Henry says.

    The Surface sconce has also made its mark in Paris and other cities worldwide, appearing in Aesop’s store in Rue Sanit Honore, designed by March Studio. “I love seeing the Surface sconce in different settings, whether it’s a minimalist Brutalist interior or in a truly sumptuous home in the United Arab Emirates, or a raw bunker-like environment to an opulent palazzo, and everything in between,” Henry says.

    Interior designer Nickolas Gurtler has been a strong supporter of the Surface sconce (as well as many other designs produced by Henry). “The Surface sconce reminds me of a shell on the ocean bed,” Nickolas says, who also sees this design as slightly reminiscent of the old-fashioned lights that lined the edge of a theatre stage, casting a glow on actors’ gestures. “The quality of the light from his Surface sconces is just beautiful: a soft and gentle backdrop in any room, be they for bedside tables or study,” Nickolas says.

    Nickolas used a bronze Surface sconce for one of his Sydney clients in the study. It not only creates a soft backdrop, but also highlights the grain on the stained timber bookshelves. “I’m also using the Surface sconces as bedside tables in a house in Perth, providing for a gentler light rather than some of the bedside lights you often see,” Nickolas says.

    This future classic has clearly made its presence felt immediately after its launch. A sculptural addition to the world of lighting has cast a glow over Henry and his team, which will continue to resonate for future decades.

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