Artist, craftsman, designer, entrepreneur: Ingo Maurer is definitely one of the most interesting people in the lighting industry. Born in 1932 on Lake Constance, Germany, he studied graphic design and lived in the United States for a few years, settling in Munich in 1963.
In 1966 he founded Design M, and from there began his long career. He never considered himself a designer, and never thought of light as a profession, but as a passion, which has accompanied him throughout his life. We met him during the Fuorisalone 2018, where he was present with an installation at the Circolo Filologico.
“I have never thought of myself as a designer,” explains Ingo Maurer, “my relationship with light has always been very natural and instinctive. I was born on an island, on Lake Constance, and when I was a child my father took me by night to fish. I was fascinated by the lights on the lake, the lights on the boats, the lights in the houses, they were like fireflies dancing in the dark. My first lamp, ‘Bulb’, was born like this, from the observation of everyday objects. I was in Venice, in a guesthouse, I went back to sleep and looked at the light bulb. So I had the idea of reproducing the bulb, but in blown glass; since I was in Venice, I went to Murano and created Bulb, which was so successful that I started my new career. The first time I exhibited at the Salone di Milano was in 1968, and I was really amazed by the incredible design culture that we breathed at that time.
Fifty years on, what has changed in the industry of lighting?
“The LED is good for the environment, but it hasn’t helped the design of the lamps; the circles of LEDs are spreading more and more, and in the end they are all the same. But light is research, it is passion. I have followed projects that have taken years of work to develop, if only to find the right material; the MaMoNouchies paper lamps have taken 4 years only to obtain the kind of paper with the texture I was looking for. In my company there are 70 people, necessary for the processing of the lamps, which are still finished by hand, one by one; the production of Ingo Maurer is still mostly craft, although, in addition to the catalog, we do many special projects, architecture, exhibitions, fashion shows, and more.
What projects would you like to carry out?
“Although I’m no longer very young, I’m still working on many new projects. I’ve done a lot of things, and I’ve generally liked everything I’ve done; among the projects that I’ve enjoyed the most, there are some metro stations in Munich. At the moment, we are working on the design of an auditorium for the park in Inhotim, Belo Horizonte, Brazil; it is an art project, particularly exciting, with a building that looks like an egg with a broken shell. But we’re also working on lighting an apartment that occupies the 91st floor of a new skyscraper in New York, and it’s just as interesting: I like to create light for such an important home, especially if I can work with clients who appreciate my work and let me design freely. And there is something I’d like to do: a small pavilion that recreates the Sistine Chapel, with the design of light. I think I could propose it for a Milan Fuorisalone”.