Meet Richard Clarkson

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See how this young designer is taking the furniture and lighting industry by storm

By Sarah Emily Gilbert

Nothing is better than snuggling into your bed during a thunderstorm. The distant thuds have a calming effect when you know you’re safe and dry in the comfort of your home. Perhaps no one appreciates this feeling more than designer Richard Clarkson, founder of Richard Clarkson Studios, and creator of the Cloud – a $3, 360 smart lamp that brings thunderstorms into your home.

No, you didn’t misread that last sentence. Clarkson has, in fact, designed an interactive lamp that mimics the sights and sounds of a thunderstorm – and looks like a real cloud. According to the press kit, the Cloud detects a user’s presence using motion sensors and creates a unique lightning and thunder show dictated by their movement. The system features a powerful speaker system from which the user can stream music via any Bluetooth compatible device.   They can also program the Cloud to make lightening flashes to the beat of the music or have Clouds communicate with each other (click here to see the Cloud in action).

The Cloud is just one of many awe-inspiring products coming out of Richard Clarkson Studios. Using his “constant imaginative curiosity” for how things works, Clarkson and his team have developed everything from a tongue and cheek urban protest 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, many of Clarkson’s products are inspired by nature.

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“Many of the studio’s recent creations are interpretations of natural systems. 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 ooohs, ahhhs, whoahs and wows. To make objects, products or experiences that inspire wonder. 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 we aspire to.”

It was Clarkson’s classmates who first got to experience the Cloud because at the age of 25, the talented innovator is a recent graduate. While many early 20-somethings are floundering to find their life calling, at that age, Clarkson’s career was finding him.

Initially interested in art and economics, he 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. It was during his two years at PoD that Clarkson started working on the Cloud, which got so much press that shortly after graduation, he was fulfilling 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.” That’s because 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, (who we featured in an earlier article titled An Illuminating Designer), 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.

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“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.”

Being that Clarkson has nearly a century to continue to bend our notion of lighting and design, it’s only a matter of time until he is the one inspiring students to find their own “little cloud factory” somewhere in the world.

Click here to purchase the Cloud, the Mobile, or any other awesome products from Richard Clarkson Studios.