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Women in Lighting

Posted by Lighting Design International on 8 Mar 2019

To celebrate Women’s Day we thought we would speak to our very own Design Director Sally Storey and some of our many female lighting designers. With varied ages and different inspirations, the one consistent theme is the love of lighting.



What got you into lighting?
My passion for lighting started during my architectural studies at Bristol University. I selected lighting for my dissertation as I have always been fascinated by how natural light can penetrate a building, how the use of skylight windows articulates this and have a significant effect on the appearance of a building. This led to a study of how, as daylight faded, I could articulate a totally different impression with artificial light. This would sometimes be a total contrast to the downward effect of natural light with uplight. Playing with reflection and direct glazing techniques.

Are you still inspired by light as when you first started?
During my early years in the field, I was one of the first women to choose lighting as a career when hardly anyone was pursuing this. Still to this day, I am in love and continually inspired by this medium. I will commission schemes until the early hours of the morning to achieve perfection. I still feel that every day I am so lucky to be inspired by this work.



What woman in the industry inspires you the most?

When in a meeting what makes you feel most confident?
Having experience gives me the confidence to be assertive.

How do you feel the industry has evolved since you started?
The Consultancy side has been transformed by the sheer numbers of Designers out there now compared to 23 years ago, half of whom are female. There are still not that many women at the top but this number is increasing. The manufacturing & supply side still has a long way to go. I think that the number of female reps that visit us on a regular basis has increased over the years.

Being a woman and one of the leading women in lighting design, do you feel you faced different obstacles when first starting out?
Yes definitely. It doesn’t help that I also look young for my age and I’m not white - I had to try a lot harder to be heard and to gain respect and still do but I’ve worked out some tactics along the way to deal with prejudices.  



What got you into lighting?
My Dad works in lighting, so I’ve been in lighting since I was born!

What woman in the industry inspires you the most?
Amarasri Songcharoen, as I have seen her grow from being a colleague to have her own successful company.

Being a woman in the industry, do you feel you faced different obstacles when first starting out?
The biggest obstacle is that lighting design as we practice it is not taught at universities. Therefore, when you start a lighting design job it takes a while to get the hang of it. Lighting design is learned on the go by experience and with time.

How they found juggling work life with motherhood, especially when children are young?
Juggling work/life/children is very difficult as the lighting industry is very demanding and fast paced. Even with a supportive workplace you must respond to your clients and demands and at the same time juggle all the challenges that come with motherhood.



What advice would you give to women starting out in lighting or for women who are still fighting to be heard within the lighting industry?
At the beginning, starting anything new can be very difficult but over time with lots of patience and effort you will get there. It is important to ask questions to things you don’t understand. Go to events, talks and do your own research for more knowledge and inspiration. 

When in a meeting what makes you feel most confident?
I’m very shy when you first meet me. Over time and with more experience, my confidence has increased. Remember that you don’t have to be the loudest person in a meeting to get your voice heard because different personalities can make a project successful. Being the calm and collective one, people still respect and trust you to make the project successful. I have wonderful work colleagues to support me.



What got you into lighting?
I first got interested in lighting when I started reading about circadian rhythm and how it can be affected by artificial lighting. The more research I did, the more I understood why good lighting is essential for our wellbeing which we might not even realize, even if it is just the mood or certain feeling created by the use of lighting. I believe that we don’t only create beautiful architectural lighting but we also design lighting which has a good effect on our health.

When do you feel most inspired?
I always feel inspired when I go to a theatre, as well as enjoying the play I also look at the lighting as without it, most of the effect would not be there. It is always done and programmed in such an amazing way and whether it is a happy or a sad moment in the play/musical, the lighting causes that feeling to be deeper.



What advice would you give to women starting out in lighting or for women who are still fighting to be heard within the lighting industry?
Compared to other industries, I believe it is not very difficult to be heard in lighting. There are a lot of successful women lighting designers out there – the key is to love what you do and to pursue your dreams as far as possible.

What got you into lighting?
The ambition to succeed in architectural design and be a specialist with an architecture niche. Also, my dad works in the same industry and is very passionate about his job.

When do you feel most inspired?
After going to an event or a talk held by pioneers in the industry or even after a short visit to London’s creative hubs.