Dear Fellow Creatives

Posted: June 14, 2021 in Art and Design, General Commentary, Uncategorized

Allow me to introduce myself in a way that a resume and LinkedIn profile is unable to. I offer the following brief illustrated run down of my career in 10 Acts. Sort of a Play of evolving interests that leads me to offering you a new resource. I hope you have a moment to enjoy this adventure as much as I have. Who knows, perhaps we might one day find ourselves on a shared path.

To start, I am an artist at heart, and have been for a very long time. My first punishment in grammar school was for using my imagination to color a birds in a manner the nuns did not appreciate. This, combined with other similar incidents of expressed independence, led to my being removed from Catholic school to be placed in a conventional grammar school where my “unique” approach would not present disrupt the order of the Rigid Penguin Queens.

I come from a background of a mother who was exceptionally talented in art, and a father who was an engineer and math professor, and a multi-generational family of entrepreneurs. My father showed me the way of being a professional adult, my mother the path to artistic expression. While this duality has afforded me insight into two worlds that rarely share the same space, it has suited me particularly well in lighting – which is why I spent so many years in the industry.

Act One – A Young Sketch Artist in the 1970’s

My desire early on was to focus on art. While I did my best to abuse my academic responsibilities while painting murals on girlfriends walls, making posters for drama club, painting sets for plays, and sketched on any paper there was in hand. In 1974, I took a moment to collect what scraps of paper I had around and stick them in the only collection of work I had. With no smart phones or many cameras around, I have nothing to show for work prior – nor do I have any photos of murals done at the time. I heard that some remained long after the girlfriend relationship and occupancy ended, so they must have been fair enough.

My first sketch archive
This gem is pretty much where my head was at in 1974.
Act Two – The Graphic Arts Transformation 1977 to 1981

In 1977, I was engaged in graphics full time for the USAF, first as a specialist in New Jersey, then as E4 NCOIC in charge of the Graphics at Anderson AFB, Guam, with two individuals under me. I was not originally assigned to do graphics in the Air Force. My first job assignment was aircraft refueling – not exactly an artistic, or expected job. But, having continued my habit of sketching in basic training, I literally sketched my way into a better assignment.

While in basic, I sketched a cartoon series called Air-Man – recording the comical daily trials and tribulations of someone going through basic training. The book was known by most in my flight. On the last day, it was confiscated by our T.I. who demanded I hand it over as we packed out. I figured it was gone.

Little did I know, that sketch book arrived at my duty assignment before I did. When I was called in for a career guidance review, I was shocked to see Air-Man book sitting on the desk of the Career Guidance officer, who – after some gyration and paperwork trickery -had me re-assigned to the Graphics shop. No more fuel soaked fatigues for me!

In the day (1978), art was still done with ink on paper, with text created using press type rub-ons.

Doing Graphics on an Air Base is a grueling business. Every officer was required to make regular presentations to every other officer (and a few Generals and Congressmen), which meant 35MM and VuGraph slides (the pre-computer precursor to Power Point). On top of that, there were hundreds of special events and activities to support all over the base, usually with minimal notice, so I learned to be quick and manage multiple tasks simultaneously. It was a deep dive from youthful sketch doodler to hot rush production graphics designer. I could not have been happier.

There was a need for hundreds of illustrations and hand layups every year, plenty of opportunity to practice and learn.
Nothing like toiling over a rendering of a 3 mast ship for people to spill their meals on in the chow hall.

While the daily work might have been enough for some, for me it was just the start. I spent my off-duty hours practicing and playing with new techniques.

At home, I kept drawing and sketching.
I practiced as many forms of inking as possible, including stippling. Still have the pen nibs in a sealed can today, at the ready.

By the end of my service, I began to see the winds of change for Graphics as a profession, from hand artwork to computers and books of pre-prepared art for sale. I began to look at other potential outlets.

Act Three – The Photography Influence in 1978

Along the way, I was afforded access to the photo lab, which led to new areas to explore. Photography and image processing were added to the on-the-job training curriculum. When I wasn’t drawing, I was burning through Air Force provided film and tank chemistry. I still have hundreds of negatives of images never printed.

I came to photography as part of the process in 1978 as well, specifically black and white. My interest in lighting was founded on this experience.
Act Four – From Recording Light to Painting with It

Photography led me to seeing imagery through the play of light on surfaces. I had no idea that lighting was a career choice at the time.

When I left the AF, I went to work as a temporary drafter for my father in his Electrical Engineering firm. Temporary become more permanent, which led to electrical and lighting design. I was also encouraged to explore lighting, mainly due to dad’s lack of interest in it (hated the artistic aspects of it). I did the IES Basics of Light course, went to the GE Institute, Lighting World 3, and attended a Sylvania lighting conference, all in a span of 7 months. I was hooked – lighting was a way forward. When I informed my father that I did not wish to continue in electrical design (disliked it as much as he disliked lighting), to pursue lighting exclusively, he gave me 6 months to make a go of it, – or I would be replaced. I did. In fact, within a year, lighting design income a significant portion of the firms income.

From the recording of light in 1978 to designing lighting in 1981, where my affair with lighting truly took root.
Act Five – Reaching Beyond Light

In the process of doing lighting design work, I came to meet some inspirational architectural talents. This led to collaboration on work that stretched beyond lighting.

My first experience in creation in 3 dimensions came when working with Steve Trout, an Architect and Lighting Design customer in Boise, Idaho. We worked together to create this centerpiece used in a street fair in 1984.

In 1985, I moved from my fathers firm to Atlandia Design – a customer at the time- owned by Steve Wynn, to do work for the Golden Nugget and Wynn’s numerous properties. As VP of Design – Lighting, at the ripe old age of 27, I joined a team of enormously creative Interior Designers and Architects that completely changed my life and approach to design. What I experienced was transformational in ways that are still with me today. Roger Thomas afforded me insight into the design universe that I had never experienced before. I was doing Lighting as an art. I was also drawn into participating in space planning and interior design work as a team member, providing me even more insight.

By 1985, I was participating in both lighting design and interior design work as a team member.
Act Six – The Independent Designer

The decision to leave Atlandia to build my own Lighting Consulting firm was a tough decision – that I second guess 35 years later. It felt like the right move at the time.

As an independent designer, I was unconstrained from exploring anything that came to me. I continued lighting design work, did some space planning, product design for a couple of manufacturers, and and began to explore the idea of making and importing unique products for customers.

My time with Atlandia led me to break out on my own as a Lighting Design Consultant. Here, I experienced a wide array of Interior and Architectural customers, doing project work that ranged from schools and art galleries to hospitality and residential.

At first, inspired by Ingo Mauer and his exposed wire winged lightbulbs, I was tinkering with making things from materials I had around and a few found objects. This led to the creation of Lumenique. I was becoming more intrigued with designing products for manufacturers as well. In all, we served over 100 customers a year, including being lead Lighting Design Consultant for the Mirage hotel.

At about the same time, I was no longer sketching with pen and ink, but was experimenting in creating lighted gadgets from copper wire and solder.
At various times, the interest in sculpture and light came together in customer project work.
With each progressive step, the lighted object work improved, and become more of my focus and interest, which drove me to product development as a profession.
From basic wire forms and solder, to fabricated shapes, to machining to create finished objects – the days of hours at a drafting table from the 1970’s practicing pen and ink – were replaced in the 1990’s to hours spent in workshops learning to make things from metal, glass and plastic.
Act Seven – Product Design and Marketing Profession 1990 to 2006

While my heart has always been in art, it seemed a natural progression to pursue a profession where I could create, use my graphics background, and interest in making things all at once. Based on this, I pursued various Director and Vice President of Design, Marketing and Engineering, as well as consulting roles for 16 years.

Winona Lighting was the first to take a chance with me as their Director of Design.
Visa was my first for Design and Marketing combined
While my focus was evolving from graphics to design, then to marketing and product development, I had many opportunities to blend interests for those who employed or contracted me to participate. This work with Kim was a deep dive into design, marketing, and graphics for me. This
I designed and directly produced, or was a participant in the building, displays for Lightfair and AIA shows, for 7 different manufacturers since 1991. I enjoyed the mix of graphics and 3D forms combined.
Along the way, I have produced furniture designs, as well as made furniture as the opportunities arose.
I even stylized a commercial lumber processing machine in 1995, one of a few industrial design projects..
Act Eight – Refining Focus in 2006

In 2006, now 16 years away from the Lighting Consulting days, the emergence of LED technology caught my attention as something that was going to re-ignite ideas and add fresh design potential that I had to be part of. I moved back into consulting, to focus exclusively on Solid-State lighting product development.

By 2006, my focus shifted to products incorporating SSL technology exclusively – which led to the 2010 52 in 52 project. to explore SSL to its fullest.
In 2010, 3D Printing had replace pen and ink and photography as my preferred means of creation. By combining my past experience with fabrication and machining, 3D Print technology, and SSL light sources, my transformation from graphics artist and product lighted objects scupltor was complete.
Act Nine – The Architectural SSL Side Road

Writing has been a second interest of mine for some time. It was always a part of the marketing function, and is something I enjoy doing. Before 2006, I wrote a few articles for various magazines on lighting topics.

In the early stages of lighting transformation from conventional sources to SSL, I pitched the idea of creating an SSL exclusive architectural lighting magazine to the folks at Construction Business Media (Arch Products). This led to them creating of an all new publication – the first to focus on Architectural application of LED lighting- Architectural SSL. I participated as consultant and as an editor with the publication from 2007 through 2019, offering both technical and creative creative content and commentary for every issue.

Premier Issue Architectural SSL Magazine May 2007
Act Ten – Back to Art

My time with product makers has been great, and fulfilling. I enjoyed the editorial work. However, neither satisfied by interest and passion for art. Time and experience has led to an evolved interest in creating sculptures, and lighted objects as a refinement of the original interests in drawing and graphics.

While part of my work will include light-as-art, my real interest is in lighted objects themselves. More sculpture with light involved, that can serve as a functional accent or task light. More new-age folk art with light, than laser shows and immersive lighting experience installations. I seek to be in the details as part of the built environment, not to own a space in a gallery for a temporary exhibit. While as lighting designer, I had a myopic view of the universe, with light at its center, my current perspective is more relaxed. I’ll leave the frantic lighting-is-everything to younger designers. To this end, I am also pursuing non-lighted works.

While I enjoy working solo, I do miss collaboration with talented designers – so hoping to build interactive and collaborative relationships – either for a single project, or for ongoing work.

As I have noted in my post “The Lumenique Story” my focus on creating objects dates back to before my work in product design. Further, in “What I Can Do for You at Lumenique” I have outlined what value I might add to those who wish to see their own design ideas come to life, but don’t have the facilities to see them realized.

As far as style, I am heavily influenced by architecture, motor vehicles, steam/diesel punk, a little Gaudi and vintage science fiction. You can read a more complete description of this in my “Artists Statement“. My newest work will reflect this even more clearly than has been the case in the more experimental works prior.

I hope to create relationships with designers, art enthusiasts and owners who find my work interesting as customers, or that I can bring value to in creating objects they specifically need or want – not available otherwise. My background in graphics has taught me to bring my customer’s style forward with as much enthusiasm as I might of my own authorship. If this is something you have interest in, please reach out to me directly, or refer me to someone who is. I am interested in hearing from you.

I sincerely wish you the best in all your endeavors, and hope you will find a place for me or my work in your own activities or spaces.

Thank you for your time.

Best Regards,

Kevin Willmorth

Comments
  1. James Highgate says:

    You forgot car racing and prolific speaker!

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