A Day at David Hunt Lighting
Recently the lovely people at David Hunt lighting invited us down to their premises in the Cotswolds for a bit of a tour & a cup of tea. After a little scheduling last week, I finally managed to pop down and say hello. As the bustle of the Midlands gave way to the open fields and countryside of the Cotswolds I was quite excited to see the processes that take place and to put faces to the voices I often hear on the telephone.
My expectations were primarily based upon my knowledge of David Hunt lighting from their catalogue. A company with a strong identity and a reputation for fine detail. What surprised me as we drove in to the carpark was the size of the place! Not that it was large. On the contrary I was surprised at how small the premises were. This wasn’t a reflection on the size of the company but the first indicator towards the ‘David Hunt way.’ A mass producer this company was not. We were greeted with a warm welcome and a friendly smile in the little showroom to the side of the main buildings that held a collection of various beautiful light fittings. A cup of tea and a fancy chocolate biscuit accompanied a passionate presentation upon the company itself.
A quick walk across the carpark and we entered the manufacturing premises. Expectations of pristine shiny machines creating light after light were rapidly replaced by what can only be described as a modern version of a traditional cottage industry. The smell of resin and paint hung heavily in the air as we were guided to our first stop. A little office high up in the building housed an aged desk covered in sample products, bits & pieces from the local area and drawings. Welcome to the design office. The gentleman who happily chatted away to us described how his job was to come up with new ideas for future products. Using items from the local area as inspiration, such as a wooden timber block that had inspired the …… light, I couldn’t help but wonder what the collection of mud caked horseshoes on the desk would eventually become.
No time to dawdle though on this visit as a collection of resin moulds greeted us at our next stop. As a member of staff gently eased the cute little pig, that is part of the Horace table lamp, out of its mould I couldn’t help but think I was watching something special being born! Was it the process I’d just watched or the care that the gentleman had taken? In fact that care became a running theme throughout our visit. Each stop was greeted by a friendly face and an enthusiasm for the work they were undertaking. Whether it was the ‘Antler man,’ who’s job it is to create the parts for each Antler light, or the elder gentleman polishing the table lamp bases, it was clear that the whole place was driven by pride in their work. As we watched each Antler being hand painted & listened to the gentleman describe how he had developed a way to enhance the finished look of the parts I came to realise that this person didn’t care about quotas and mundane factory floor protocol. He cared that each light would look exactly right for each client when fitted on their ceilings!
A little further along the tour I came to another realisation. That within each role fulfilled by the staff at David Hunt there is an element of freedom to express themselves. A bench covered in different paint pots revealed a working sketchbook where its owner was experimenting with different shades of Gold to find that perfect finish. I couldn’t help but think that this isn’t normally the way in most lighting manufacturers. Who better to experiment and develop these new ideas and colours than the people on the shop-floor with the years of experience. The whole process was quite refreshing to see. Paint was also the topic of the next discussion as we moved a little further along our tour. A glass window revealed a member of staff within a paint booth, meticulously spraying a product. ‘Every time we have to load a new colour in to the equipment, we have to clean it all down which can take an hour,’ our guide explained to us. ‘It can be a laborious job which is why we have to charge a small amount each time we change a colour.’ It took me a few seconds to realise what she was alluding to. If you want a Hyde light fitting in bright pink you can have it! If you want a Dickens ceiling light in Royal-blue you can have it! Sure, there might be a surcharge involved but the point was that they have the capability and desire to do it for you. Where else would you be able to choose an existing light, and have it finished to your own colour choice. Their bespoke services don’t in fact end there. If a dimension needs adjusting. If a light hangs too low for you they can make it to your own specification. The nature of the company allows them to do this. The handcrafted processes allow them to do this.
As I stood looking around the little spaces and offices that filled the buildings of David Hunt lighting and watched the staff fulfilling their roles I came to realise that the star of the show wasn’t the technology. It wasn’t even the fine materials and the hand processes that are used to make each light. The star of the show was the staff themselves. Each and every one of them were happy to talk to us and explain what it was they were doing. How their role played an important part in the birth of each product. From the sales team who believed in the company’s’ philosophy to the painters, polishers and electrical testers. Nothing was too much for the staff of David Hunt and they could have easily ignored this group of people who were walking through their workspace.
The phrase ‘they don’t make them like they used to’ is often associated with a tangible item. On this occasion, I think it would be fair to apply this to the actual company itself. Sure, their products can be expensive and sure you have to wait a little while for them to be made. But with the quality materials they use, the hand processes by caring staff and the bespoke nature of their lighting range it feels like it is completely worth it. I for one was completely sold on the concept that supports the foundations of the company and left on my drive back to Coventry content in the knowledge that there are still some proper British manufacturers out there.
I would recommend anyone to visit the David Hunt showroom and experience the company at first hand. Even if you were thinking of purchasing a single light fitting. I get the feeling they would be more than happy to greet you and demonstrate the care and attention that would be given to your new light.
So thank you to all the staff who welcomed us in recently and gave us a little insight in to daily life at your Cotswolds studio and don’t stop what you’re doing because you should be proud of yourselves.
The author of this blogpost was Dave Riley. Ceiling fan & Lighting expert of 16 years with Lightahome Ltd.