For lighting designer Julie Neill, everything begins and ends as a work of art.
Neill already had a fine arts degree when she enrolled at Delgado University to study drafting. While there, she happened to take an interior design course for fun, and she was hooked.
Working as an interior designer, Neill was asked to create a custom lighting fixture for a showhouse. That initial piece was so well received that Neill soon found herself devoted solely to lighting design, but she never really left the art world behind.
“For most of my career as a lighting designer, I drew everything by hand, because I am not a technical person,” she said. “Every piece of lighting that I design is drawn life size.”
After the initial design is sketched out, one of Neill’s employees converts the hand-drawn design into a CAD drawing, which is presented to the client.
Once the custom piece moves from the design stage to fabrication, Neill works to make sure the finished product is integrated into the customer’s existing designs.
“I have a client who bought a fixture from me, and then she had a round piece of art that she was hanging face-down from the ceiling,” Neill said. “Right now, what we’re doing is designing and making a border to go along that art that coordinates with the light fixture that we already did with her. It’s a great creative collaboration.”
That process requires an artist’s eye and a delicate touch when it comes to marrying the fixture to the art. It’s the perfect project for a designer who blends her artistic roots into everything she creates.
Neill said the process she enjoys the most is designing new lighting fixtures for Visual Comfort, a company that licenses her original designs. “All my lighting designs start out as pieces of sculpture that are meant to be lit and hung from a ceiling, or on a sconce on a wall,” she said. “They all start out as a piece of sculpture in my mind, and then they become a useful item.”