Creators

In London, Eva Menz Creates Artisanal Lighting with Theatrical Flair

A flock of porcelain origami birds floats above the mostly marble lobby entrance in a building in Oran, Algeria. A waterfall of light, made of crystal-glass diamonds and gold-plated pendants, cascades through the center of a rectangular spiral stairway in London. An undulating canopy of glass shards creates a fragmented pattern of light and shadow in a modern restaurant in San Diego, California.

All these theatrical lighting installations were created by the German illumination artist and sculptor Eva Menz, who has spent 18 years crisscrossing the globe to offer private clients lighting that not only brightens but also enlivens spaces.

Eva Menz in the London workshop of her company Atelier001
Eva Menz in the London studio of her company, Atelier001. Top: Seventeen blown-glass pendants from Atelier001’s Cityscape collection hang in a living room.

Recognizing that such large, ethereal works aren’t suited to every home or business, in 2019, Menz established luxury lighting brand Atelier001 to sell smaller-scale lamps, chandeliers, pendants and sconces, which she designs and which can be arranged in bespoke assemblages.

“It’s perhaps like a fashion brand that has a couture side or an accessories side,” she explains. “Atelier001 offers wider access to some beautifully made pieces. I think of it as mass production with more of an individual touch.”

Because the pieces are all hand-made and finished by top craftsmen, each is unique, with its own coloring and patina.

Take the pendant lamps in her Cosmic collection. Each is composed of two hand-spun brass plates on a framework of satin brass and illuminated with LEDs, and all are finished in matte white lacquer or with a celestial-seeming patina. But the particular patina — whether indigo, rust, dark bronze or verdigris — varies from one piece to the next.

Born and raised in Munich, Menz moved to the United Kingdom in the 2000s to study product design at Central Saint Martins College, part of the University of the Arts London. She never, however, considered herself strictly a product designer.

“I loved materials and detailing, and from a creative standpoint, I was always experimental and sculptural,” she recalls. “St. Martins allowed me to be quite free in that, even though back in those days, art and design were typically more divided. I’ve always felt somewhere in between, or a little bit of both.”

Immediately after graduation, she had the opportunity to present work at the ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair), in New York. “Because it was a somewhat hard time after college, I wanted to create glamorous pieces just to cheer me up,” she says. She made two chandeliers inspired by origami birds and sold them both. 

In the Clouds, 2014, by Eva Menz for the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong
In the Clouds, 2014, a light sculpture Menz created using handmade porcelain shells on brass chains, is installed in the spa entrance of the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong.

Her career took off like a flash after that. “It was a very quick transition from domestic-sized chandeliers to very large, architectural and abstract chandeliers,” she says. Within the year, she’d received a commission to create a 36-foot lighting installation made of 300 hand-folded origami cranes in the atrium of the G Hotel and Spa, in Galway, Ireland.

Since then, her clients have included such top designers as David Rockwell, Monique Gibson, Timothy Godbold and Jeremiah Brent.

Her London-based operation has grown substantially. In addition to a team of half a dozen people who work with her in the studio, Menz says there are about “fifty individuals or studios in our orbit that we collaborate with and who are really instrumental to our creation, whether it’s idea finding, or prototyping, or solving a technical problem, or developing a new material.” 

These collaborators include glassblowers, metalsmiths, ceramists, patina artists and silk weavers, located all over the world. “I like to have a small capsule of a studio and then tap into highly skilled experts on different levels, as necessary,” she says. “It’s a real network of expertise.”

The resulting products are elegant and deceptively simple looking, with a retro feel that recalls both mid-century modern Scandinavian design and early-20th-century Art Deco. For Menz, vintage design’s main attraction is its craftsmanship.

“Every time I go to a market or a fair or a collectible environment, I’m just blown away by the detail,” she says. “A lot has to do with how much time people were spending on it. I just really love the old value system of treating the materials with a lot of respect.”

Eva Menz for Atelier001 Cosmic Azure sconce.
A Cosmic Azure sconce in brass with a celestial indigo patina

Although timeless in design, her lamps always include modern lighting technologies, using only LED elements, which she hides from the eye. “One thing that’s very important to me is that you never see the actual light source,” she said. “I hate that feeling in your eye, as if you just looked into the sun and you have that dot in your field of vision.”

Atelier001 will soon expand beyond lighting, adding accessories and furniture pieces to its repertoire, starting with tables. “We’re exploring how we can create tables that are very glamorous and artisanal but transportable,” Menz says. “There will also be chandeliers in this coming collection. For me, that’s obviously the biggest challenge — because they will be made more than once, I feel they have to be the best chandeliers ever.”

Eva Menz’s Talking Points

Cosmic Orbit Solo Purion ceiling light in high-gloss white lacquer
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Cosmic Orbit Solo Purion ceiling light in high-gloss white lacquer

“This piece reminds me so much of the cosmic constellations — one star seemingly dancing with another. The glossy white piano lacquer emulates the glow of moonlight, luminescence and depth of light. Orbit Purion is my personal favorite and a seemingly classic yet magically modern light.”

Cosmic Ore chandelier in gradient patinated brass
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Cosmic Ore chandelier in gradient patinated brass

“A feel of instant vintage, yet furnished with the most up-to-date lighting technology. Finished by hand, these lamps can happily live amongst design classics and the highest-echelon furniture. I love how light is reflected out from this piece. I prefer indirect light to direct light, because it exudes warmth and calm after a busy day. This lamp can be a gorgeous centerpiece, either shining bright or dimmed for a romantic dinner.”

Cosmic Oxidium pendant lamp in mixed-color patinated brass
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Cosmic Oxidium pendant lamp in mixed-color patinated brass

“Oxidium is a singular work of art every time we make one. Our resident alchemist patina artist uses a secret formula for the finish, so that each lamp has a different look. Each little variation is a new landscape, an imaginary planet terrain. Every now and then, it does not work out at all, and we have to start again. You can see that it is a living, breathing artisanal effort, and for that we salute our makers.”

Cosmic Solstice Ore table lamp in bronze-patinated brass
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Cosmic Solstice Ore table lamp in bronze-patinated brass

“My team and I had so much fun designing this piece, even lending it out to all members for some bedside, desktop and evening reading tests. The fine brushwork on each part of the light is mesmerizing, especially appreciated by people who relish details. It also dims very nicely.”

Liquid Vortex Solo Jade ceiling light in green gradient glass and aged brass
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Liquid Vortex Solo Jade ceiling light in green gradient glass and aged brass

“These pendants have a lot of emotional value for me. It took several sessions to develop the look, working with my incredible glassblower, who has been a trusted collaborator for twenty-five years and counting. We spun and spun the glass whilst hot until a deep, magical vortex of seemingly eternal liquid material emerged. Adding light to it was just mind-blowing, spreading reflection and refraction in the surrounding space and through this magical material.”

Liquid Smoke sconce in hand-blown glass and aged brass
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Liquid Smoke sconce in hand-blown glass and aged brass

“A pair of these grace my bedside, and I never tire of looking at them. They provide enough light to read by, and yet the light is soft enough to fall into a slumber. They’re also dimmable, with gorgeous ripples of liquid-shaped glass reflecting on the wall. The only difficulty is to choose a color (smoke, jade, ocean, amber, alabaster) from our selection, because they’re all so individually stunning. If you arrange a set of them in a cluster on an entrance wall  — voilà! – you have yourself an art installation.”

Lune Trio Lantern pendant in raw white silk and brushed brass
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Lune Trio Lantern pendant in raw white silk and brushed brass

“This light from our Canvas collection was undeniably inspired by purist Japanese lanterns and the lovely quality of raw silk. I wanted to create a design that celebrates the humble and subtle imperfections of the handspun fabric, and the perfection with which it is mounted. Although these look simple, we went through many prototypes before we could achieve this elegant balance and proportions.”

Cityscape Trio pendants in clear hand-blown glass and brass
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Cityscape Trio pendants in clear hand-blown glass and brass

“My dream came true when a client recently ordered forty of these pendants to cluster into a chandelier. Each piece is made by hand by the most skilled glass artisan, but combining a series of them is truly a feast. The shapes and lines are remnants of my own imaginary floating, transparent city.”

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