“I would describe what I do as contemporary and refined crochet,” says designer Naomi Paul, with a smile. “When I tell people it’s crocheted, the 1970s alarm-bells start going off in their heads.”
But if anyone expects her light fittings to be kitsch, they couldn’t be more wrong: made of cotton or wool on steel frames, they are clean, tactile and chic. She draws inspiration from natural forms, and from mid-20th century art and sculpture. After studying at Central Saint Martins and Chelsea College of Arts, Naomi worked for the designer Sid Bryan, who “gave me a crash course in industrial knitting.” In 2009, she established her company; she now works in a studio on an east London nature reserve.
Most of Naomi’s lampshades are made with mercerised Egyptian cotton – a yarn with a slightly waxed finish, which adds lustre and architectural structure.
It’s dyed in Italy, then shipped to Lancashire, where a craftsman knits it into a cord. “We’ve spent a long time developing that cord, to be exactly the right tension and rigidity to make the pendants hang and appear as they do,” explains Naomi.
The frames are hand-rolled in copperised steel by one of England’s last frame-makers, near Nottingham. Finally, back in London, Naomi’s team painstakingly crochets the cord around the frame. “It’s just a birch crochet-hook and a hand, and each piece is made by one person – it’s a continuous thread that’s worked in 360 degrees. What we do is real precision work: our smallest pendant takes about five hours, and custom pieces can take three or four months.”
“Because they’re crafted by hand, each pendant has nuances and uniquenes. I like to make really functional things, but what’s lovely is that they are also pieces of art.”Naomi Paul