In the Beginning
Emerging from a humble start in Boise, Idaho as a drafter/designer, then forged in the heat of Las Vegas, the burning excitement for lighting led to the creation of Kevin L. Willmorth, Lighting Design Consultant, the birthplace of Lumenique. The setting was a second floor industrial office space leased from John Renton Young, a lighting entrepreneur. Sharing our building: An Interior Designer; a Boutique Lighting Rep Agency, and a fledgling specialty color filter coating company.
The firm provided lighting design for the Mirage Hotel, casinos, retail stores, golf courses, resorts, and roughly 40 large custom homes every year. To keep up, my partner (and wife, Angie), and one drafter, worked long hours, seven days of the week, frequently through the night, to meet deadlines. All of our customers were demanding, and we met their challenges through every means at our disposal – which included finding luminaires for special spaces that were exemplary and unique.
We sourced products from Italy and Spain, antiques from San Francisco, and customs made from a variety of sources, including Winona Lighting. However, contractors and distributors were ill prepared to support the frequently strange sources of products we came up with. The time we were spending fixing problems consumed precious time we just did not have, and produced less that desirable results. There had to be a better way.
As we headed into 1988, we also began to create special products from found objects and refit of old fixtures. The design entity also grew into product design. We decided to create a new company that would focus on supplying products that had no other channel to reach our customers. The model we used was that of Interior Designers, who provided both design and bespoke product.
The name Lumenique was created to transparently provide customers to decide between one or the other, or both. The name itself was created by combining the words “Lumen” for sources of light and “Unique” to reflect our specific focus on bespoke products. At the time, I was making one-off art pieces on our dining, In ’88 a customer of ours opened a gallery, bookstore, coffee shop, and expressed interested in my art products – which led to my first ever art sale.
At that time, we had grand visions of creating an art gallery lighting showroom with art, special lighting, and furniture. Little did we know that the fickle Las Vegas economy was going to put heat on us in a way we were not prepared for.
Winter 1989 – a Cooling Off Phase and Regroup
With the completion of the Mirage, and fresh projects a few years off the horizon, development in Las Vegas took a deep breath from its frantic pace to get ready to move into the Mega Resort era. Work fell off its crazy pace, and we were suffering a severe case of over-work burn-out. We decided to look to re-boot and focus exclusively on products, moving away from lighting design.
In the cold Minnesota winter of 1989, Winona Lighting, a supplier of customs to us, offered me a position as their Director of Design – giving me an opportunity to deep dive into product design and creation.
It was a golden opportunity to grow my capabilities and learn manufacturing. The owners and managers of the company allowed me a great deal of latitude to explore. While the change meant that our plans for Lumenique would be put on hold, I assumed that after a few years, we would get back on track. Little did I know, it would be some time before I returned.
Winona gave me an opportunity to expanded my capabilities, while the product design experience exposed me to new customer experiences. It also gave me an opportunity to rediscover photography and graphic design, which was where I started my adult career in the late 1970’s. I was so enamored with the experience, I built my own fab shop.
The excitement born from my Winona experience led me to executive positions with other lighting companies, including Visa, Kim, and Renaissance – before returning to consulting in 2006 – when Lumenique was resurrected from a part-time art interest, to full time endeavor. The hiatus lasted sixteen years.
Lumenique Restart 2006
For the period between 2006 and 2019, Lumenique focused on bringing together the art and design concerns of lighting, with the emerging solid-state (LED) technologies. This included authoring and editing articles in Architectural SSL magazine, designing products, assisting lighting companies with SSL technology, and SSL technology companies with lighting design concerns. I also explored the use of UV LED for use in curing fiberglass resins, which including building several light sources for the purpose in our 4,500 s.f. shop space in Menomonee Falls WI, along with prototypes, test samples, and mockups being created for lighting customers.
In 2010, Lumenique launched the 52 in 52 project, in which 53 products were imagined, designed, engineered and produced, at a pace of one per week – published on this blog site. The work was a combination of emerging SSL technologies, and expanded workshop shop capabilities, that also reflected my intent for Lumenique all along – to create unique products with artistic qualities.
The work was good as a business, and built on new capabilities to make as well as design, test, and engineer from sixteen years in product development. However, Lumenique was still not the artistically driving company I imagined, so it became apparent that we were on the wrong track.
Another Short Break and Rethink
In the spring of 2019, an opportunity emerged to take a position with a long time customer, to work for them in building and managing their Engineering and Marketing departments, in Illinois. The organization utilized several sources in China for many of its products and components, so it looked like a great opportunity to learn about that aspect of the lighting industry. So, Lumenique moved into a smaller home-shop facility in Elgin, IL, and I dove into the new position. While this did not ultimately work out, it did afford me some time to re-think what happened in 2006 – and how I had allowed Lumenique to stray from its intended goal of being a lighting art studio.
Lumenique Refocused 2020
As the wet of winter 2020 crept in, I decided that it was time to see Lumenique rebuilt with a specific and direct plan to pursue the artistic sculptural works I had imagined it to be in 1988. While the attempt in 2010 was a wet squib, it was a part time effort. It was on me for failing to follow through.
I resigned from my Engineering and Marketing position as COVID19 washed over the country – to put everything I have into making Lumenique what I intended it to be from its beginning.
Lumenique is now what I intended it to be when we created it 33 years ago – with some refinement. I have created a workshop of tools, including 3D Printing that wasn’t even imagined in 1988, and have 30 years experience in the craft of creating artistic works with my own hands.
In the early days of my lighting career, delivering a result that delighted customers meant the world to me. The inspiration for Lumenique was to see it become a source of that delight through delivering products of unique and rare qualities, and of art. I have never lost interest in this, and am putting everything I have into seeing the dream of Lumenique so many years ago, finally realized. As we dive into the final months of 2021, I will be presenting my most recent works for sale.
I hope you will be delighted with the results.