Making fun: Stained glass lighting by Carina Webb of Frangere Studio

Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland’s Carina Webb has always has a soft spot for handmade objects and the narratives they carry. She says that as a designer, her approach is more around the essence of an idea than her skill level or expertise in a particular field. She loves to be pushed outside her comfort zone and finds a lot of joy in learning and experimenting with different materials and processes in order to make what she’s dreamed up.

How did Frangere Studio come about, Carina? I first got curious about stained glass when I was making a gift for my dad. I’d experienced significant personal growth after a particularly rough period and was hoping to make him something that reflected that in some way when I came across a small leadlighting studio and decided to give it a go by designing and making a small pendant light. The poetic resonance I felt while transforming ‘broken’ pieces of glass into something new and wonderful for him is what inspired my new body of work and the name of my studio. Meaning ‘to break’ in Latin, Frangere is a reflection of the charms and pitfalls of life.

For your first collection, you’ve made a delightful series of lamps — what’s their backstory? A lot of the items I create tend to have a touch of playfulness to them, which ironically can often stem from feeling the opposite. The Fun Guy collection is a testament to this, drawing on the forms and luminescent colours of wild mushrooms and fungi to celebrate growth, transformation and the magic that can be found in even the darkest of moments.

ABOVE Carina’s is a labour-intensive practice that celebrates the human hand, traditional production craft and the unique soul that’s breathed into every single piece. The names of her lightshades — such as green Parrot Waxcap, golden-hued Witches Butter and blue Pixie’s Parasol — come from the non-scientific names for mushroom varieties that share the same tones. Along with help from some talented manufacturers and suppliers, her lamp bases are made in using tools and machinery her engineer father has been collecting since he was young.

What’s your process for making them? The glass shades are made using a copper foil technique developed in the late 1890s. Sheets of coloured glass are scored and hand-cut into shape, before being edged in copper foil and pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle. Each shade is then soldered together and polished; patina can also be applied to get a blackened finish. 

ABOVE “I wanted these pieces to be fun, charming and bold — perhaps because that’s what I desired within myself at the time,” says Carina.

What drew you to lighting? I’d been working in the high-end lighting industry for many years prior to this and, to be honest, thought I was well and truly over designing lights! Nevertheless, it seems to be one of those things that just sort of fell into place. I love the ever-changing interplay of light and colour that stained glass brings, and wanted a way to showcase it. Lighting seemed like the perfect fit.

Do you plan to broaden Frangere’s offering? One of the joys of having my own business is it gives me a chance to create pieces that reflect me. By nature, I’m quite shy and reserved, but my personality and sense of humour often come through in the things I make. I hope to expand the range to include some smaller objects that incorporate this a bit more — similar themes to begin with, but exploring some of the other senses too.

Interview Alice Lines
Photography Carina Webb & Ben Starnes

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