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Simon Christopher and Celina Clarke of ISM Objects

Creative People

Simon Christopher and Celina Clarke of ISM Objects met on their first day of studying industrial design at RMIT. They were both moved to the front of the class for ‘being too vocal’, and over the next three years, formed a great friendship.

The pair dreamed of designing furniture and lighting instead of the cars and toasters they were assigned to work on, and they haven’t stopped since!

28th September, 2017

ISM Objects designs and makes all their lighting at their Bayside facility. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Directors of ISM Objects Simon Christopher (far left) and Celina Clarke (fourth from left) with their team of in-house engineers, industrial & interior designers, handcraft & assembly experts. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

The ‘Nudie‘ pendant inspired by Japanese lanterns at the ISM Objects Bayside facility. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

ISM Objects production team member Daniel Peele working at the Bayside facility. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Penny Bunz of the production team at ISM Objects handcrafting a shade. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

ISM Objects directors Celina Clarke (pictured) and Simon Christopher met at on their first day of industrial design at RMIT. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

The ‘Grapho Bubble’ pendant was released at DENFAIR in Melbourne earlier this year. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

‘We are lucky to have built a team of long standing creative people to design and work on our products’, ISM Objects directors Simon Christopher and Celina Clarke say. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

The ‘Grapho Bubble’ pendant is a self-inflating ball hand-made from Japanese rice paper. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

The ‘Alpha’ wall lamp pictured above the ‘I Do…’ wall lamp. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

The ‘Studio 6’ wall lamp from ISM Objects. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

The ISM Objects showroom in Mentone. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Sally Tabart
Thursday 28th September 2017

As is the case with most recent graduates following the completion of their studies, both Simon and Celina of ISM Objects found ‘steady’ day jobs in display and packaging design, working away on their own ideas and designs by night. In 1990, the pair formed ISM, creating homewares and furniture in batch productions, setting them apart from other designer-makers at the time in Melbourne, who were mainly creating one-of-a-kind pieces.

Growing their new business over the next couple of years, their lightbulb moment, if you will, was Fab – the ‘Fab’ lamp, to be precise. In 1992, Simon and Celina released a flat-packed table lamp that received accolades and awards around the world, stocked everywhere from Country Road (who commissioned a custom shade) to the MoMA Gift Store in New York! While these days it really is pretty easy to have your work seen on the other side of the world, you can imagine how popular the ‘Fab’ lamp must have been to have word travel so far in 1992, without the internet and social media.  It was the success of this one product that encouraged Simon and Celina to focus their energies solely on lighting design.

One of the many things we LOVE about ISM is that they design and make everything in Australia! ‘ISM’s products are fully designed and manufactured in Melbourne,’ they explain, ‘we use a wide variety of materials and processes ranging from slip cast ceramic to plastic moulding. Each fitting is assembled, wired and tested in our Bayside facility.’ The fact that Simon and Celina have been able to employ so many people locally in their design and manufacturing process is testament to their lasting quality. After over 25 years developing creative lighting, ISM has cemented itself is as a leader in its field.

Earlier this year, ISM released several new collections at DENFAIR, a major design trade fair in Melbourne. Amongst these was the cutting edge and rather sci-fi sounding ‘Grapho Bubble’, which as Simon and Celina explain, ‘is a self-inflating ball hand-made from Japanese rice paper.’ Taking it’s name from the Japanese word to write or sketch, the ‘Grapho Bubble’ allows ‘custom graphic designs [to] be added to the pendants… each pendant hangs flat and then comes to life and expands when switched on.’ Continuing their relationship with Australian design, ISM have collaborated with local graphic artist, Nathan Nankervis, to create  a series of limited edition prints to be released later this year.

In addition to this, the pair have reimagined their classic ‘Fab’ lamp to suit contemporary needs. The new(ish)-and-improved Fab 25 is a fully updated design,  which retains the lamp’s original silhouette, but explores new materials and processes, including LED and battery technology. Fab 25 also has a portable fitting that can be charged with a USB cable like your mobile phone or tablet. (Maybe it can be charged like a phone, but no doubt ISM are far more reliable than Apple, and won’t go changing the ports on us!) 

As for what’s next? Simon and Celina are already in the future. ‘We are already working on new products for release in 2018 and 2019,’ they tell us, ‘We are developing lights that push the boundaries of performance, whilst maintaining our goal of creating objects of affection that endure and endear.’

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net