BORN IN AACHEN IN GERMANY, FROM EARLY DAYS MAKING INTERESTING OBJECTS FROM WOOD IN HIS BACK GARDEN AS A YOUNGSTER, SEBASTIAN SCHERER SEEMED DESTINED TO BECOME A LEADING LIGHT IN LIGHTING AND FURNITURE DESIGN. AFTER GRADUATING IN 2004, HE MOVED TO BERLIN TO WORK AS AN INTERIOR DESIGNER, FOUNDING HIS OWN PRACTICE, SEBASTIAN SCHERER STUDIO, IN 2010.
In 2014, Sebastian won the grand prize, the Lexus Design Award, for the prototype of His iridescent crystal lamp, ‘Iris’, prompting him to set up his own new label, NEO/CRAFT, which debuted at the IMM Cologne in January 2015.
Also in 2015, Sebastian scooped top slot in the WIN Lighting Products category, again for Iris – a show-stopping design inspired by the shimmering, playful beauty of soap bubbles blown into the air by children.
He tells us about the unchartered scientific road leading to the creation of Iris, hints at new lighting products soon to be announced, and explains why it’s design rather than architecture for him. But we start with a question about his WIN win…
No conversation with you could properly begin without first mentioning Iris. What did it feel like to win the WIN Award for this gorgeous design?
There were some very strong competitors for the Award so it was an honour that Iris was chosen as the winner. Thank you!
This year we are seeing some other very exciting new products coming through in the same category. What do you see as emerging trends in the lighting arena?
I’m very happy to see more and more small labels focusing on handmade and small series lighting. The trend of high quality pieces with styles individual to each designer is very exciting.
And talking of the new, NEO/CRAFT is to open its first showroom in Summer 2016. The label’s new studio and exhibition space will be housed within the Perlon-Labor, an historic, lovingly restored former laboratory and factory near the banks of Berlin’s Rummelsburger See. Why there?
We were looking for a new space that we could use as a studio but also as a showroom. This neighbourhood is just starting to become more established, which allows us to have a much larger space than would be possible in the inner city. The beautiful surroundings are an added bonus. Historically, the Perlon-Labor has always housed innovators which reflects our goals and the basis on which Neo/Craft was built. As soon as we found it, we knew it was the perfect fit.
Going back to Iris, the entrancing mouth-blown glass globes use a dichroic coating to create their rainbow shimmer, formerly only possible on flat or slightly curved surfaces. It took you nearly two years to develop the process for use on a spherical shape. How deeply do you get involved in the science on ideas such as this, in addition to the design/aesthetic aspect?
When I was first inspired to create Iris, I had no idea how complicated it would be to realise the product. In the very beginning I wasn’t aware that a method of creating this aesthetic didn’t exist. The longer I searched for a producer, the more interesting and exciting it became to work with someone to create a completely new technique.
I was very lucky to find experts in dichroic coating processes who were determined to help me develop the product, and who involved me very closely in the process. It’s important that I closely follow and support each step so that the design doesn’t get lost in the search for a solution.
And if soap bubbles were the inspiration for Iris, what was the inspiration for your other striking lighting product, Diamond?
Diamond had a very different starting point and a more straight forward development process than Iris. The design for the Diamond lights came from a form study on crystalline structures.
Can you give us any hints as to new lighting products in the pipeline and when and where we might expect to see them unveiled?
We do have some exciting new lighting products in the pipeline but I’m afraid the details have to remain top secret for a little while longer.
What made you decide to launch the NEO/CRAFT label in 2015, and how does it work in relation to your own studio, which you founded back in 2010?
The catalyst for launching NEO/CRAFT was winning the 2014 Lexus Design Award with the prototype for Iris. The Award gave me the funding to develop Iris for market which would have otherwise been very difficult to do. The finished product was then the basis for founding the brand with my now business partner. Sebastian Scherer Studio is alive and well but has taken a backseat for a while as I focus on building NEO/CRAFT.
And we know it has been your intention to work with other designers under the NEO/CRAFT brand. Anyone you can mention as yet?
Were you always drawn towards art and creativity when you were young?
As a child, I was constantly building things at home as well as in the forest; tree houses, structures out of wood blocks. As a teenager I liked to fix things around the house and work in the garden.
You went on to study product design in your home-town of Aachen in Germany at the University of Applied Sciences. What was the most inspirational lesson you learned from there and how does it translate into the work you do now?
Two of my professors in Aachen were furniture designers, Jan Armgard and Karel Boonzaaijer, who inspired me to focus on developing my own pieces. Not so much a lesson but people who definitely inspired my direction.
We hear that a career in design was preferable over a career in architecture for you…why so?
For me, design was a more direct path to realising my ideas and bringing them into the world.
Do you ever switch off from designing, and, if so, what might a typical leisure diversion be?
I never really switch off from designing completely, but holidays and sports are very nice diversions that briefly take away the business aspect of design.
I enjoy going to the gym and biking in my free time. In terms of holidays, I always try and go somewhere new. City trips are great for learning about and experiencing other cultures. I’ve also had some great skiing and sailing trips, which were a nice combination of activities and relaxing with good friends.
Do you still live in Berlin, and if so, what do you like best about it?
Yes, I live in Berlin. For me, it’s the most interesting city in Germany. Due to its history, Berlin has so many different architectural influences. The city is so huge and has so much open space that, even after 12 years of living here, there’s always something new to discover.
Gail Taylor
Images:

Img 1: Sebastian with Iris
Img 2: Iris Pendant
Img 3: Loop Table with Loop Chairs
Img 4: Iris Pendant
Img 5: Diamond pendant
Img 6: Loop Stool
Img 7: Loop Chair (Yellow)
Img 8: Isom Oblong Table
Img 9: Twelve Clock