ZOOH was invited to present our Zarza range at a lighting Press event at Maison & Objet Paris 2019. Below are the slides from our presentation as a PDF.
The Zooh story
Zooh is a small family business based in Asturias, in the north of Spain. My name is Alicia Wood and I am the managing director of Zooh. I worked as a photographic stylist for many years in Australia and the UK styling advertising and editorial shots for luxury brands like Villeroy & Boch and Sheridan, where I cultivated my love for creating spaces that make us feel good.
Our journey started just a few years ago by collaborating with artists to reproduce art works to create functional pieces for the home, and hospitality industry. We reproduce artworks onto various glass, coated eucalyptus and textiles pieces.
We work in particular with Maurizio Anzeri an Italian artist, well known for embroidering photographs he finds in flea markets and second hand shops. His beautiful needle work that partly covers faces and landscapes was what started us thinking about how we could incorporate needlework and threads into lighting.
We live and work in Asturias, one of the most beautiful parts of the world with breathtaking scenery, mountains and beaches and wonderful people who have that particular Spanish mix of being both traditional and modern and forward looking. Like many other parts of the world, Spanish seas and beaches are awash with plastic- so much so that after a storm you can sometimes barely walk on the beach without stepping on plastic.
This horrific realisation led us to think more about the materials we were working with and seek materials that were available naturally and in abundance that wouldn’t contribute to more landfill and waste. We wanted to make things that would never be thrown away.
It rains a lot in Asturias and this combined with a temperate climate creates unstoppable growth of all sorts of vegetation – the number one enemy of land owners is the bramble, zarza in Spanish. Its long, strong and prickly tendrils grow like wildfire and get a hold of gardens, land and abandoned buildings rapidly. It is also a flexible and strong material for weaving. It had been traditionally used to make fences to keep sheep and chickens safe from prey so we knew we had found the perfect material.
We involved local crafts people and worked with them to create a range of light shades with brambles, that incorporate a modern take on tradtional Asturian crochet and needlework, something I feel passionately about reviving in this part of the world.
The process is all done by hand and labour intensive – we had to find ways to dry and shape the brambles and strip them of their thorns. This level of labour can make products prohibitively expensive but because of the low cost of materials, they are not prohibitively expensive.
Brambles don’t have the same uniformity as other materials used for weaving so it creates a unique and edgy line so it doesn’t replicate the many woven lampshades that can be a bit twee and folksy. They work equally well in tradtional and modern environments.
The availability of good low wattage lightbulbs has changed things and allows us to focus less on the technical aspects of lighting and more on creating a piece of art and beauty. Our lightshades are like hanging sculptures in their own right and when lit they transform the ceiling into a stunning, natural light show with stronger bulbs, or throw beguiling light and shadows on the ceiling with softer bulbs.
They are so organic and wild, they create a direct connection with nature that we desperately need in our busy and mechanised lives and importantly, they make us feel something- this is something that mass produced lighting can never do.