Tiger Lulu – Bespoke Lighting Design
Tiger Lulu produces beautifully made vintage items turned into bespoke light sculptures. We chatted to the owner, Robin Woolley, about his creative passions and starting a business in lockdown.
How and why did you start Tiger Lulu and what is your background?
I’m a retired engineer that has embarked on a second career in fine arts. The company was birthed in lockdown out of the need to craft a birthday present for my wife with limited resources. These constraints provided the creative impetus to convert beautifully made vintage items into bespoke light sculptures. The process of giving new utility to vintage items that have no current purpose into items for ambient lighting, device charging and even audio through Bluetooth speakers.
Where do you find inspiration to create?
The line between art, form and function is an interesting issue for me. As a fine artist, if I create an acrylic artwork, it’s worth say R5000. However, if I take that same artwork and stretch it over a lampshade it’s worth R2000. People’s perceptions of what something that has a purpose is worth is anchored in the Chinese mass production paradigm.
However what if I could reverse that concept… If I could take a vintage item that was made in the 70s with quality and attention to detail but is currently worth very little as its purpose for being no longer exists. Say for example I use a vintage camera and recognise that the lack of utility of the item in no way reduces the aesthetic appeal of these items from our childhood. If I can reconstruct them into a new use – say as a Bluetooth speaker or a charging point or a bedside lamp then that aesthetic item can now be re-enjoyed in a new light.
The objective is to lend new meaning and purpose to those beautifully made items, ranging from meat grinders, tools, rotary telephones, sewing machines and some items that we have even forgotten their use.
We create unique, bespoke lighting solutions for ambient lighting to the bedside, desk, kitchen and lounge areas of the home. We craft not only lighting solutions but incorporate technology such as Bluetooth speakers, USB charging ports and wireless charging to create bedside technology hubs out of long-loved vintage items.
How do you see the world of lighting progress?
I would see that in my niche market a movement that is a reaction against consumerism and items created for a limited life span has to be to have less, but what you have is designed for a lifetime and customised to suit your particular lighting needs. You can have the best décor, but without light, there is nothing to see or poor lighting can destroy ambience. With people working from home they are wanting to move from task lighting to mood lighting to shift from work to home mode.
What are some of your biggest challenges faced?
Finding beautiful vintage items as raw materials and keeping it small and artisanal. Less is more or you land up with a steampunk mess.
You’re constantly dreaming up new products? How do you know what to use and when to create?
There is an art to the retention of the original item and its original meaning and the casting of it into a new context that works aesthetically and functionally without being too limited by the original definition of the item. So when does a vintage tennis racquet become a functional side-table or when is it just a quirky item of kitsch?
Tell us more about the name of the business – Tiger Lulu. What is the meaning behind the name?
My wife’s nickname is Lulu and she’s a tiger…