A different light
Christopher Boots - short for Boutsinis - is a maker of lights. But the lights he makes are a far cry from your run-of-the-mill fluorescent globes.
As a light designer, Boots approaches his work with inspirations from nature and science. The result are otherworldly pieces that could easily be stand-alone artworks. His enthusiasm for design comes partly from a long line of family members with a love for hands-on skills. Boots's father, who hails from Thessaloniki, is a furniture upholsterer, while his grandfather was an electrician.
Boots himself embarked on his design-oriented, yet equally technical line of work by way of an industrial design degree at Swinburne University. He then propelled himself straight to the top, taking up work at the studio of the late Geoffrey Mance, a Melbourne lighting designer known for his quirky and innovative designs. This was the man who famously turned a pile of twigs into great light installation (dubbed The Hedgehog) in Federation Square in 2005.
As a young designer, Boots described "being unafraid to experiment with materials and processes" was one of the best advice Mance imparted onto him before his passing in 2007.
"The hallmark of working with Geoffrey, apart from that he was a really a good friend and mentor, was how he instilled in me that willingness to experiment, and this was one of the biggest factors that made me think, Oh wow, anything is possible!"
Indeed, anything was possible for the young designer. After his mentor's death, Boots teamed up with business partner and friend Dean Gaylor to buy Mance Design from the Mance family, heading it for four years and growing the business in the process, before parting ways with the studio he's grown with to set up his own eponymous design company.
"I just got to a point where my business partner and I weren't diverging, he wanted to continue with Geoffrey's work, whereas I wanted to start fresh, make my own collection and taking it in a slightly different direction," he recalls.
Most recently he installed lights from past collections (PHASMIDA and SIMPLEX) at new South Yarra cafe Two Birds One Stone, adding an edgy touch to an otherwise homely and inviting space. The designer is also working on a collection of pieces with a lower price range at the Federation Square annual design market.
This latest project marks an interesting side to Boots's business; during a financial climate where the consumers, from the corporate to individual, may be resorting to mass-produced household items, Boots hasn't seen demand for his lights decline. He thinks this is because his customers are clients who do not want the uniformity that inevitably comes with mass-produced, flat-packed goods, generally they are looking for something different.
"The difference with independent businesses and makers is if you've got something unique and you fill a niche, there's always going to be a market for you," he says.
This niche market understands and appreciates his unique vision and aesthetic, combining nature, science and history. A past collection, christened Prometheus, takes after the Greek myth of the titan doomed to have his liver eaten away by an eagle for all eternity. The piece itself represents an eternity ring, framed on the edges by a crust of jagged quartz crystals set into the ring by removable magnets.
"I'm always trying to keep the collections as timeless as possible," Boots explains. "So with that in mind, that could be looking at the roots of history like Ancient Greece and Rome and even mythological things like Atlantis and then imagining if the culture and art of that place and time existed now, what would the aesthetics look like.
"I use a lot of brass and other materials that have a lot of history in them, and I think, how can we use these materials and interpret that to reflect contemporary design?"
When asked what his ultimate project would be, without hesitation Boots says, "A brief with an open budget and an open client who is really willing to go the distance [with the design]."
He pauses for a while, thinking about what that design could be. "But it is actually very hard to have open briefs, because there's more pressure on you. Sometimes it's just easier to have some parameters set to what you can work with."
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