In 2002, after Founder & Managing Director Peter Bowles rescued a Stoke-on-Trent bone china factory from closure, the warm tones and opaque appearance of bone china became the company’s signature. Today, it’s a material that remains in use extensively to produce new and diverse lighting collections. Bowles and his son, Charlie, utilize highly skilled, labor-intensive processes to create multi-faceted forms that explore, maximize, and celebrate bone china’s translucency, luminosity, and versatility. Hand slip-cast at the factory, the Original BTC team’s innovative production techniques – coupled with a commitment to local manufacturing – have resulted in an ever-expanding collection of British design classics. We reached out to Bowles for some insights on what his thought process is for using the material for lighting fixtures, industry trends, and more.
“When we originally started using bone china for lighting shades, we had a supplier that manufactured for us. After a few years of working together, we started to become frustrated with the poor service and quality,” explains Bowles. “Upon confronting them, the supplier divulged that they were dealing with a slew of production issues and didn’t have the financial resources to solve them. I have always loved manufacturing, and without any prior thought or planning, I suggested that I take the company over. Within the hour, they had agreed.”
After Original BTC acquired the factory, Bowles kept the existing staff on and invested capital to solve all of the production issues.
The range of Original BTC fixtures runs the gamut and showcases diverse originality that’s quite impressive. The dome-shaped Hector is a prime example. It was one of Bowles’ first lighting designs produced in bone china and also remains one of the company’s most beloved. “I wanted to create an unprocessed light that customers felt at home with while also aiming for longevity, which is very important to me,” he says. “Hector is a blend of ceramic and satin chrome, offset by the natural cotton braided cable. It features a mix of blended materials and gives off a beautiful light.”
Naturally, the inspiration behind this design, as well as others – and the creative process – comes from a number of sources influencing Bowles and his team; but mostly, it stems from what appeals to the senses. “We are inspired by quality, raw materials, tried-and-true processes, and good solid British design. We love producing lights that we like and think other people will like, both today and for many years to come,” he reveals. “Inspiration can come from anywhere, from childhood toys to detailing spotted in an old factory. We seek to infuse our lighting designs with details that make them a pleasure to touch and look at.”
Original BTC’s Hector wall and table lights can be seen in the ROOST Apartment Hotels in Philadelphia and The Drifter Hotel in New Orleans, while a striking collection of the Hatton pendants can be found in the lobby of Werqwise, a co-working space in San Francisco. The Shipyard pendants were also recently included over the kitchen island in the Hamptons vacation home of American entrepreneur Hannah Bronfman and New York City DJ and Theophilus London manager Brendan Fallis. The company has a showroom in Manhattan and is available through retailers such as Rejuvenation Hardware, Anthropologie, Design Within Reach, and Guide Boat. Additionally, it is available across the country through several regional retailers including Lightopia (Los Angeles/Manhattan Beach, Costa Mesa); Illuminations (Washington, D.C.); Switch Modern (Atlanta); Lightology (Chicago); Chimera (Boston); Rypen Showroom (Minneapolis); Palette and Parlor (Chapel Hill, N.C.); Voltage Furniture (Cincinnati); Alexander Marchant (Austin); and Earth Elements (Jackson, W.Y.) – to name a few.
The Original BTC’s portfolio is comprised of several design brands, including Davey Lighting, Bowles & Bowles, Beadlight, English Antique Glass, and Branksome China, as Bowles has a history of rescuing and repurposing companies on the verge of closing down. It’s a strategy that has brought great success to the company. “I have always been motivated by a love of manufacturing and my belief in English- and American-made goods. We should always strive to preserve our heritage and skills,” he concludes. “Keeping these traditions alive isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.”