Turned limestone pendant lamps by Melbourne designer Hugh Altschwager of Inkster Maken. Photos – Brooke Holm.
Turned limestone desk lamp by Melbourne designer Hugh Altschwager of Inkster Maken. Photo – Brooke Holm.
Hugh Altschwager of Inkster Maken in his Melbourne home studio. Photo – Lucy Feagins.
I am constantly amazed at the incredible breadth of creative talent in Melbourne. Just when I think I have everything covered, another amazing emerging designer pops up on my radar, always keeping me on my toes! The supply is limitless, I tell you. Hugh Altschwager is one such recent discovery, though to be fair, whilst he is currently Melbourne based, we can’t claim him totally as our own – he is originally from rural South Australia, and still very much a country boy at heart!
By day Hugh works as a construction project manager, but in his own time, he designs a beautiful range of handcrafted lighting under the name Inkster Maken. This succinct little collection of pendant and freestanding lamps are turned from South Australian Limestone – giving them a unique texture and organic tactility not often seen in contemporary lighting design.
Whilst it’s still early days for Hugh’s fledgling design studio, his work has already gained significant recognition, having been named a finalist in this year’s Ketel One ‘Modern Craft Project‘ – a global search for the very best contemporary craftsmen using traditional skills in a modern way. The next step for Hugh now is launching his range to the market – at present his lights can be viewed on his website and ordered via email.
We asked Hugh a few questions about his background and the launch of Inkster Maken –
Tell us a little bit about yourself – where are you originally from, what did you study, and what path led you to launching Inkster Maken?
I grew up on a family farm in the far south east of South Australia. It’s a relatively isolated but beautiful spot, more or less halfway between Adelaide and Melbourne. Being off the main route, there are some wild and untouched areas of coastline that are a pretty well kept secret, and an ideal place for adventurous kids to grow up.
I always loved being outdoors and making/building things from an early age. Dad and I would collect ute loads of pine offcuts from the nearby forests, and my mum would literally buy me buckets of nails which would keep me busy for a few months at a time. Eventually, I moved to Adelaide for a few years of boarding school and then went on to uni to study Design/Architecture.
After three years of this I transferred into a project management degree which lead me to where I am now, as a construction project manager in Melbourne. I moved to Melbourne at the start of 2011.
Throughout my years at uni I would always return to the farm for my holidays to help out and work on building a little self sufficient hut overlooking Lake Bonney. It took me years to piece together all the salvaged materials, and at the end of the project, I realised that I would need some lights – that’s where the idea for the Limestone pendants originated, and where Inkster Maken has stemmed from.
I came up with the concept for these lights over the course of 2012, and after being shortlisted in the Ketel One Modern Craft project early this year, I’m looking to launch my first range of products next month.
What main processes, from concept to final product, are employed in the creation of your lighting range?
I have decided to focus on a small selection lighting products for the first range. All of my products are 100% handmade using natural South Australian Limestone and reclaimed timbers like Tasmanian Oak, Spotted Gum and Cypress pine. Limestone is an incredible material, it is literally cut straight out of the ground in blocks and is ready to use immediately. When used in lighting, it provides a warm earthly glow that I feel is not normally achieved with other more traditional materials.
In the beginning I was making/carving the pendants by hand which was incredibly time consuming and laborious. I have now developed ways to speed up this process and provide a beautiful finish to the stone. That’s one of the things I really love about design, it gives you the opportunity to take any material or object and find ways to use it and shape it for new purposes. Currently I make everything in-house but we’ll see how that goes over time. Going forward, I would like Inkster Maken to release a new range of products, not necessarily limited to lighting or Limestone, each year.