12 January 2014

the urban electric co: a decade of lighting excellence. (#UECo10tour)

this past november it was my privilege to visit the beautiful city of charleston, south carolina to receive an up close and personal introduction to amazing lighting of the urban electric co, as they celebrated their tenth anniversary.  i've long been an admirer of their chic lighting, but let me tell you, after meeting the the company's enthusiastic founder and CEO dave dawson, touring the UECo factory, seeing the incredible craftsmanship that goes into every piece, and last, finally being able to see ALL of their gorgeous products gathered in one place, i have crossed the line from being a mere admirer to being a rabidly obsessed proselytizer for the brand!

seeing a product go from a sketch on a napkin to a prototype to a finished piece is an unique experience, and on our tour of the urban electric co's very groovy circa `1906 factory space we got to see how it all unfolds, from start to finish. CEO dave dawson has a passion for american excellence in craftsmanship and it shows in work of the artisans in his factory. outside of some of the glass being imported from italy, all UECo fixtures are 100% produced in the charleston factory by craftsman who have passed through the UECo's rigorous apprentice to master program. i was particularly impressed as this kind of master craftsmanship is a dying art, but urban electric is training and encouraging a new generation of true artists to move forward with american made excellence. love this commitment to the human spirit, as well the commitment to keep things local. after touring the factory, i wanted to quit being a designer, move to charleston, and become the world's best metal artisan by taking a gig there. ;-)

but since i am far too old to quit doing what i'm doing and pick up a craft, the designer in me was super inspired by the urban's custom capabilities to make just about anything you can think up. many of their designer partnerships actually started because they worked with the designer to create custom pieces and it was pretty cool to see the extensive CAD files developed from a designer's sketches, as well as see the details worked out as full size 3D mock-ups by their rapid prototyping machines. truly the best of old world craftsmanship meeting 21st century technology. my mind has been spinning with ideas for custom lighting ever since my visit, most notably, a pair of sconces for my 1930's fireplace mantel since the originals vanished to the sands of time, leaving two papered over junction boxes. i've had a fantasy of finding something new yet sort of machine age deco to replace them but have never been able to source just the right thing.  since my visit, i've been sketching concepts, now that i know someone with the capability to do the precise machining the design in my head requires. of course, dreams don't come cheap, so i may be dreaming a while (years) longer but i am super excited to know that UECo can craft whatever i can dream up. a rare thing, that, and hey- good things are worth waiting for. better to wait for quality that to buy crap in a hurry, i always say. ;-)

i opened this post by saying i've long been an admirer of the UECo's fab lighting, but up until now, it has only been an admiration from afar. outside of a few pieces i've seen installed locally, i've only been able to view majority of their line on the web, so probably the biggest treat from me was to see all (well, most) of their beautiful lights gathered in one place. some of them were surprises in scale since i've never actually read the dimensions to actually spec them, but most of all, i was delighted to see the UECo's exquisite finishes up close in and personal. finishes, perhaps even more than the actual craftsmanship of construction, determine how good a product looks in person and UECo's do not disappoint. i was sent home with a big ass gift bag with all types of goodies inside, but i think my favorite thing was the complete sample set of over 24 different finish options and 10 glass options.  having these on hand is going to make the glam urban electric company fixtures much easier to sell to my clients.
urban electric produces many different styles of amazing lighting, from this historically inspired wall-mount lantern created by UECo's design guru, michael amato, for the restoration of fenwick hall plantation... more contemporary styles with an industrial edge. there is something for everyone, but all keeping with UECo's overall aesthetic vision, and all with UECo's amazing dedication to craft.
UEC's master craftsmen, creating lanterns on the factory floor.
UECo's passionate CEO, dave dawson, explaining a welding process to our group, you'll notice my attention has typically wandered to the handsome young man actually doing the welding. what can i say? i'm a designer and my eye is drawn to aesthetically pleasing things.  ;-) 
urban's craftspeople are true artists, as you can see by the test sprays in their finishing room.
i was super-inspired by the raw materials in the factory and loved seeing them go from raw stock to finished product. very, very, cool to get this insider view.
globes for their hanging fixtures. i mentally designed a floor lamp using the half-silvered one during this stop on our tour. ;-)
even the factory signage shows UECo's dedication to craft.
look at the flawless details of this lantern designed by the talented amanda nisbet. (funny side note: i posted this having no idea who the designer was until amanda commented on my instagram "hey, that's my carnegie lantern!". small world, the internets is).
i've admired this steven gambrel chandelier, but have never seen it outside of the UECo website.
so was surprised it was about twice the size i had mentally pictured it, going by photo alone (the frame it is hanging from is about 5 feet tall). i consider myself something of an expert in reading scale from a photo but this is a good reminder to always read the dimensions before you order off teh internet! (of course, if i wanted a smaller version, UECo could easily make it, since they excel at custom work).
i was beyond thrilled to bring home a sample set as UECo's finishing is unparalleled.
i want to thank the urban electric co. for the opportunity to get to know their brand, and i'll be posting a bit more about trip as not only did the UECo family pull out all the stops to introduce us to their brand and designers,  they also showed us an amazing good time while wining and dining us throughout the beautiful city of charleston. stay tuned!


designchic said...

Their work is exquisite and we wanted so much to use two of the Chisholm Hall lanterns over the island at our Beaufort Beach house - sadly they were a little out of budget, but oh, one day...thanks for the tour!!

Jill Seidner | Interior Design said...

Great recap and highlights from your trip! (LOVE the look on your face of "welding guy" - I stopped at that picture too!) :-)

Alex Bouchard said...

yeah that's really brilliant post about the urban electric co: a decade of lighting excellence, I really really impressed with this article. thanks alot for sharing such a wonderful thing. love it.

franki durbin said...

You had me at the finish chips! ***swoon***