‘All of sudden, a robot is coming to my desk,’ says Shakúff founder and creative director Joseph Sidof. The video-equipped automaton can be virtually controlled by existing clients and potential new customers, allowing them to (carefully) navigate around the brand’s Brooklyn showroom and even ask for advice. This kind of robot is more usually on duty in hospitals, making it possible for family members to communicate with isolated Covid-19 patients. Sidof thought they might serve another useful purpose.
If you want to take in Shakúff’s range of table lamps, floor lamps, pendants, sconces, and chandeliers online, you can do that now too, no robot required. The launch of a virtual store and the introduction of the robo-customer were both Covid-era innovations. As was the introduction of the ready-made lighting on offer, though this was plotted pre-pandemic. And even though the showroom is again open to the public, the robot still roams, evidence of Sidof’s flair for tangential thinking and the creative interfacing of art, commerce, and technology.
Over the last decade and a bit, Sidof has built a pioneering custom lighting business and a loyal clientele of interior designers who rely on it for large, perfectly crafted installations in residential, retail and hospitality projects. He came at the business sideways.
Born in Israel and relocated to Brooklyn when he was 18, Sidof started out wholesaling costume jewellery. It’s not the traditional start for a design entrepreneur but it stirred his creative interests. And dealing with retailers sharpened his frontline reconnaissance skills; the gathering of intelligence on shifts in favour and demand. Sidof started to create pieces and quickly built confidence in his ability to generate interest and stir passion. ‘I started to realise that I have taste in colour and design,’ he says.
Sidof has built a pioneering custom lighting business and a loyal clientele of interior designers who rely on it for large, perfectly crafted installations in residential, retail and hospitality projects
Looking for a new challenge, and making one of many tangential leaps, he decided to contact an Israeli stained-glass artist and develop a business in the US for architectural scale stained-glass. That business failed to take off quite as Sidof had hoped but he saw another route to success. The artist made wonderful coloured glass, Sidof just needed to give it a secular twist and a functional spin. ‘I started to talk to people about the beauty of the glass, what happens when you put light through it and then I started playing with light bulbs.’ A light bulb moment then.
Sidof intuited there was a demand for custom lighting, at least at the residential level, that wasn’t being met. Or a demand that he could generate an answer for. ‘I asked my artist to create thicker glass that could be used for lighting and started to talk to interior designers.’ Over the next few years the business grew, he started creating his own fixtures in the US and – a real breakthrough – he found blown-glass artists in Israel, then Hong Kong, and Eastern Europe. And again, he did his time in the trenches, talking to interior designers, understanding how the pieces and the light they co-created worked in their spaces. (Cannily, he also made sure he made life as easy as possible for the electricians who would actually fit his lighting). Suddenly he was being asked to create custom lighting for hotels and restaurants and, confidence justifiably swelling, started to create his own designs that could be scaled up, customized, and creatively explored.
Though the custom business remains a passion for Sidof, the ready-made collections now allow clients and customers a more affordable and instantly available take on the Shakúff approach
The introduction of LED lighting was another boost to confidence and creativity. ‘When LED lighting was introduced, I adopted it straight away and it created a big shift. You could create really beautiful pieces with small lights,’ says Sidof. The possibilities opened up by LEDs also encouraged a new play with materials, particularly brass and onyx, and the creation of new forms, long illuminated ‘wands’ for instance, hung in dramatic constellations. It also helped Sidof and his team land on a distinctively elegant but playful and warm minimalism in their designs, textured and soft-edged.
Shakuff’s new Bloom collection exemplifies that approach. Built around the core element of brass ‘buds’ and a blossoming Kadur Drizzle pendant, the collection includes sconce, floor lamp, table lamp and chandelier configurations. The table lamp variant is particularly striking: the Kadur Drizzle pendant is set in a blown glass orb which sits in a brass semi-sphere that rests on a brass dome and, in turn, on a marble base with its own inner light. It’s an entrancing, elemental – and a little confounding – composition. And again, the design makes the most of new technology. The lamp can be turned on, off and dimmed simply by touching a smaller metal sphere attached to the power cord.
Though the custom business remains a passion for Sidof, the ready-made collections now allow clients and customers a more affordable and instantly available take on the Shakúff approach, with the same emphasis on craft, composition and smartly applied tech. Robot viewings available.