How The Lamps From Malaysian Studio Aureole Design Celebrate Its Asian Roots
Apart from technical considerations, a lighting designer needs to grasp the tangible form that light takes as well as the intangible; the latter being the effect of illumination. Tan Wei Ming of Kuala Lumpur-based Aureole Design has mastered both, with her elegant lamps showcasing an understanding of materiality and the subtlety light can bring to a space.
Established by Tan in 2013, the Malaysian studio Aureole Design takes its poetic name from the circle of light surrounding a head—a term often used to describe the halo in artworks. Trained in typography and having practiced graphic design, she decided to explore her love of lighting and furniture design after being part of a design collective in 2007, which produced custom furniture, lighting, and interior pieces for projects.
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Since then, Tan’s small but considered product range has seen her collaborating with traditional craftsmen and exploring heritage techniques and materials; her collections are offered online by the art and design platform The Artling.
Highlights include her Dǒugǒng collection, which adapts the interlocking wooden brackets of traditional Chinese architecture to create a design motif repeated for her lighting pieces, standing mirrors, and a side table and bench. The Geometry line features delicate “origami folds” of terrazzo and her Line series is a minimalist interpretation of Mid-Autumn Festival lanterns. Poetic yet rigorous, Tan’s modern take on tradition has created compelling products celebrating craftsmanship with the refinement of fine art.
Here, she tells us more about her design philosophy and plans ahead for the studio.
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
Tan Wei Ming (TWM) Aureole approaches design within the context of simplicity—be it in the purity of lines or the unadorned elegance of a material. Within this, the richness of Asian culture inspires the process before being translated into a form that allows its design and material to accentuate (the look of) the finished product.
Tell us briefly about your design process.
TWM Understanding the characteristics of the materials is an important aspect of my design process. I had the opportunity to explore the use of natural stone varieties and earthen clay for some of Aureole Design's pieces; it does take a lot of patience, especially (when working) with clay. I started taking part-time pottery classes and woodworking lessons, too. These courses allowed me to better understand the materials and production techniques.
One of the most educational experiences I had was the opportunity to visit the indigenous Penan tribe in Borneo, Sarawak. The trip was absolutely inspiring: I got to see the villagers' way of life, to live among them, and to understand the techniques of craft weaving among the Penans. The learning process doesn’t end—a marriage of old and new techniques is always exciting.
All of these (experiments with materials) inspire my design process. Aureole's design development also draws influences from my background in graphic design—working with geometric forms and proportions. To me, the process of designing an object is similar to designing a page layout.
What do you hope to achieve through your design?
TWM Purposeful design—I want to create functional pieces. As graphic design is known as communication design, it is an art with a purpose: to communicate, to connect. If the design is created without a function, it will be just a form or viewed as 'art'.
Therefore, when I extended my skills to furniture and lighting design, both design and function are as important to me. The design aesthetic of an object helps to elevate the value of the piece as well as differentiate it from mass-produced products. Currently, I am creating custom lighting for a residential property while working on Aureole Design’s next collection.
The design aesthetic of an object helps to elevate the value of the piece as well as differentiate it from mass-produced products.— Tan Wei Ming, founder of Kuala Lumpur-based Aureole Design
What keeps you inspired? Who are the architects and designers that you look up to?
TWM Elements of nature keep me inspired—be it wood, bamboo, rattan, clay, or stone. I also admire the makers that use these natural materials to turn them into everyday objects or wearables. I have much admiration for their craftsmanship and dedication.
I also look up to the work of the late American designer Charles Eames. My favourite quote from him is: “The most important thing is that you love what you are doing. And (secondly), that you are not afraid of where your next idea will lead.”
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