LIGHT OF THE WORLD
With delicate hand-blown glass bulbs casting shadows across beautifully brushed copper, nickel and brass settings, the sculptural lighting pieces by Lebanese designer Carla Baz are winning plaudits across the design world. But Carla only wants half the credit for these bold and striking pieces. “It’s not just my designs,” she says. “It’s about the craftsmen and women who painstakingly work in metals, glass and wood to bring my ideas to life.”
Her studio in Beirut is home to a unique collection of handcrafted pieces dedicated to craftsmanship and local design talent. But it was while studying product design at the University of Art and Design in Lausanne, Switzerland that Carla first began to understand the importance of craft to the creative industries.
“The designer comes with an idea sketched on a piece of paper, but you have to work with a craftsman for it to come to fruition, to create that product that ends up in someone’s home,” she says. “I realized it was a very human connection between the two. You have to explore the link between the hand that draws the design and the hand that crafts the product. You can’t really do it on your own, you have to have the support of the people who are making your design with you.”
After graduating, she worked in London for Burberry and Vivienne Westwood, as well as Zaha Hadid, the world-renowned architect. But after years in France and Britain, she found her home country of Lebanon was calling. “Lebanon has such an incredible history,” she says. “Being on the Mediterranean, it has always been a centre of commerce and trade, with so many different influences. It is very diverse and textured – travel just a few metres and you can find yourself in an area with different religion, food, art and architecture. Our country is a social and religious mosaic but what we have in common is a love of heritage and identity. This transcends all our differences. Whether it is marquetry, or wood detailing, or ornate metalwork, or cane weaving or glass-blowing, we have incredible artisans who contribute to the identity of Lebanon.”
Carla was aware that some forms of Lebanese craft were disappearing. So she set up a creative collective and, determined to manufacture locally, she drove from village to village across the country looking for skilled artisans to work with her and other upcoming designers. “I wanted to nurture and support the artisanal heritage of Lebanon while developing a new language and identity in Lebanese design,” she says. “I also think consumers are increasingly interested in an object’s provenance. Trends are changing and, for many people now, it’s not just about buying a nice lamp for their home that looks pretty – it’s about knowing how this product was made, where it came from, whether you can feel the hands that made it. I love spending time in the workshop seeing the craftsmen at work – it is enthralling and almost poetic to watch what they do.”
Now focused solely on lighting products, Carla is gaining recognition internationally, winning the “Rising Talent” award at the French design fair Maison & Objet in September 2018. “It’s so exciting to be part of this new generation of Lebanese designers,” she says. “We now see a creative community that is flourishing and creating amazing things.”