Beau McClellan Design

It’s a long road in front of me

I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. We’re still trying to find exactly what we’re doing. Everything I’ve been involved with has been to do with the arts – whether it be music or lighting – and it basically all comes from the same place. So I’m a lighting designer just now and I might go back to doing some art, it depends. It’s a long road in front of me yet.

I want to get you away from your separate realities

I see lighting installations as pieces of art – communicative pieces that say something. As a musician there’s this special thing that happens between you and the audience, a special sort of separate reality that you all reach. For 45 minutes they’re not worrying. That’s what I’m trying to do with the lighting sculptures. If I can get you underneath them and just try to get you away from your separate realities, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes, then it’s really working.

Light captures people’s attention

Light’s a very good communicator. It can be a very fast emotion if you get the lighting right. If there’s movement in the lights you can attract people to it. I wanted the large sculptures to stand alone without the aid of light, so that when the light’s turned off they’ve still got something to say. But light’s a good way of capturing people’s attention to look at the sculpture for a bit.

Something lying around will be the spark

Craftsmanship doesn’t come into a lot of mass produced items. There’s a need for designers to get their hands back in the dirt. A lot of young designers rely far too much on computers. I think the big problem is not getting their hands dirty, not understanding the way materials work. You have lots of wonderful designs that can’t be produced. The real gift is in the factory. It’ll be something on the floor – something that somebody’s given up on can be the spark of the creation of a different collection. I think it’s important that all designers take time to understand the materials that their products can be made from.

It’s hard to stay true to your design

Reflective Flow was very, very difficult. They asked me to come up with a design for this space, which was huge. Once we started getting into it, there was that wonderful thing of being able to build something big. There’s excitement involved with that, the challenges they meet along the way and it was constantly changing. The hardest thing with these big projects is that there’s a lot of engineering, a lot of safety issues and the hardest thing as an artist is staying true to your original design.

We’ve done a lot of damage

We’re not 100 per cent carbon neutral yet. We’re trying to get there, that’s definitely one of our goals. If we can achieve that goal in the next two years I’ll be very happy. I think every artist has to be responsible for what they’re doing. I’ve been travelling the world a lot and I realise it’s a very, very small place that we all live in and we’ve done a lot of damage.

Failed R&D might take you to the path

There is a new aluminium foam out. It didn’t really work out the way I wanted it to, so like a lot of these things you’ve got to get your hands in the dirt. Some of the R&D will never come to anything but it might just take you off on that path that results in something good.

You can’t forget what’s gone before us

Different companies send me new materials to work with so we build quite an extensive library. It can be technology, it can be new LEDs, new lenses… everything to do with lighting. There are also new components made from porcelain. You have to look back at the old materials as well, you can’t forget what’s gone before us because there are a lot of old materials that can be revamped and turned around to work in different ways.


Hear Beau McClellan speak at the inaugural Lux Energy Club event at Millbank Tower in London on the evening of Thursday 29 September. The event – in association with Lutron – is open to specifiers and end users such as designers, consultants, architects, facilities and property managers.

Email for a ticket.

Gary Cooper

Centre manager, Festival Place, Basingstoke

Rogier van der Heide

Chief design officer, Philips Lighting