Richard Clarkson Studios
Taking industrial design by storm
By Sarah Emily Gilbert
Photos Courtesy of Richard Clarkson Studios
Nothing is better than snuggling into your own bed during a thunderstorm: the distant rumbles and flashes of light bring peace and calm when you know you’re safe and sound. Perhaps no one appreciates this feeling more than industrial designer Richard Clarkson, founder of Richard Clarkson Studios and creator of the Cloud, a $3,360 smart lamp that brings thunderstorms into your home. Made by felting hypoallergenic fiberfill to a sponge casing that holds the device’s speakers and componentry, this interactive lamp looks and sounds like a real thunderstorm. Luckily, though, it does not produce real rain.
According to the Studio’s press kit, the Cloud uses motion sensors to detect a person’s presence; the result is a unique lightning and thunder show. A powerful speaker system enables the user to stream music via any Bluetooth compatible device. Users can program the Cloud to make lightning flashes—in various color options—to the beat of the music playing from that device, or have several smart Clouds communicate with each other.
The Cloud is just one of many novel products coming out of Richard Clarkson Studios. Using his “constant imaginative curiosity” for how things work, Clarkson and his team have developed everything from a tongue-in- cheek urban survival kit aptly named “Protest,” to “Rain,” a lamp that uses a pump system to circulate water through a glass globe, creating a ripple effect on the floor. Like the Cloud and the Rain lamp, several of Clarkson’s products are inspired by nature.
“Many of the studio’s recent creations are interpretations of natural systems,” explains Clark. “They are recreations, abstractions, and adaptations of natural forces. Initially, this wasn’t intentional, but rather a subconscious direction. I was fortunate enough to have the creative capacity to explore projects in such a way that I was able to draw inspiration from what I personally found inspiring, which for me, are moments of awe and wonder of various weather systems and natural phenomenon.
“The studio’s main objective is to create oohs, aahs, whoahs, and wows; to make objects, products, or experiences that inspire wonder,” observes Clark. “I still remember how amazing it felt the first time the Cloud flashed lightning and thundered, and my classmates’ heads spun. Someone switched off the lights and said, ‘do that again!’ That reaction is what Richard Clarkson Studios aspires to.”
At 25, Clarkson is a recent college graduate, and his classmates were the first to experience the Cloud. While many early 20-somethings are trying to find their life calling, Clarkson’s career was finding him while he was still in school. Initially interested in art and economics, Clarkson turned to furniture and lighting as an Industrial Design major at Victoria University of Wellington. He was then accepted into the Products of Design Masters (PoD) program at the School of Visual Arts in Brooklyn, and it was during his two years there that Clarkson began to work on the Cloud. It generated so much press that shortly after graduation he was already filling orders and looking to open his studio.
Clarkson may have come from a sheep and beef farm in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, but he has fully embraced what he calls his “little cloud factory right in Brooklyn.” Constantly mulling over new inventions and innovations, he insists that this is a “very exciting time to be involved in lighting and furniture.” Clarkson is a part of an influential group of designers blurring the lines between lighting, furniture, and art. Like his major inspiration, Industrial Designer Lindsay Adelman, Clarkson’s creations are just as worthy of a spot in an international art museum as they are in someone’s home. One of his most recent releases, the Mobile, is no exception.
“The Mobile specifically is a project that I think will encourage a shift in the way we think about lighting, moving from static to dynamic using additional elements such as motion, sound, and materiality.”
With decades ahead to continue to bend our notion of lighting and design, it’s only a matter of time until Clarkson is the one inspiring students to find their own “little cloud factory” somewhere in the world.