Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio: Luke Hobbs Sheds Light on Industrial Design

October 5, 2018

Industrial designer Luke Hobbs in his Hollywood, California, studio, photos by Emily Hodges

Knowing that Luke Hobbs’ handcrafted lamps carry a mix of industrial-vintage flair, it wasn’t a surprise that his space held the same allure. Luke’s Hollywood studio is the perfect spot for a scavenger hunt if marquee signs, tiny brass animals, and posed mannequins are on your list. A corner display mimicking an old-timey parlor—charming bookshelf wallpaper, steel cocktail shakers, and antique encyclopedias—was revealed right when I walked through the garage entrance.

A few steps away from what Luke calls “the whiskey lounge,” lamps were placed in sections that were in different stages of production: wooden block bases being cut, bases ready-to-be stained, and tiny sculptures about to get polished. “How did you come up with this hand-touch concept?” I asked as I placed my index finger on and off the Mr. Owl Touch Lamp, watching the light bulb flicker. “It’s honestly not a brand new concept, it’s the design that makes it different.”

When I continued to check out the rest of Luke’s garage space, alongside several of his tools and machinery, dozens of spray paint cans and paint buckets were lined up against the wall shelves. In the very back, I noticed piles and piles of sculptures ranging from airplanes to cats—waiting to be selected for his next lamp design. In awe of Luke’s organized chaos, I decided to challenge him a bit by asking if he had my favorite animal, a whale, swimming in these piles. Challenge accepted! He disappeared and returned in two minutes with a little brass whale sitting on his palm. He went on to tell me why he can’t complete one lamp in one day, how Mack Trucks inspired his first design, and why a getaway car might be needed when it’s time recharge his creative juices.


What are your most essential tools?

Hands. My hands definitely qualify for the most essential. Nothing would get done without them.

Where do you find inspiration within your space?

I’ve created different areas within my workspace, including the “whiskey lounge” which is generally used as a finished display of product staging, but also for inspiration. And maybe some whiskey.

Mr. Owl Touch Lamp, photo by UncommonGoods’ creative team

Mr. Owl hanging out in Luke’s whiskey lounge

Where does down time fit into a day in the studio?

Ahhh, really not much down time. There is always work to be done. But any useful time I have I love to use it creatively.

What was the toughest lesson you learned?

One of the toughest lessons I’ve learned is really to know how to manage my time. There is always work to be done and it can’t all be done by yourself. It’s always a work in progress.

How exactly did you come up with the concept of your products?

The general concept of my products started as a hobby. I always played around with industrial components and also have a background in architecture and design. The first design I ever made had a particularly interesting piece incorporated that resembled my dog Lincoln! The piece used a vintage Mack Truck hood ornament, which so happens to be a bulldog, as the touch control for the lamp. This piece, although somewhat evolved, is still made and always very popular!

What’s your process when making your products?

The process takes several steps. You really can’t make one lamp from start to finish in a day. The steps to make a single lamp from start to finish are:
Sourcing the materials and components.
Cutting, pressing, and sanding the wood bases.
Staining and protective coating the wood bases.
Prepping the wood bases and materials.
Painting, coating, and acid washing hardware.
And, finally, finishing assembly and wiring.

Small Parts

How often do you come up with new designs?

New designs generally just happen naturally. I will typically find a particular shape or industrial component for inspiration and eventually evolve it into a new design. Sometimes new designs sit on a dusty shelf for years until I realize what slight adjustment is missing to make it into the product I had imagined.

What advice would you offer the you of 5 years ago?

Hard work pays off. Be creative and things will happen naturally.

How do you set goals for yourself?

For goals I try to imagine the bigger picture. I set small goals that will collectively arrive at the larger goal. I can appreciate and manage reaching the small goals.

Describe a perfect day in your studio.

The perfect day would be having a productive day. Generally, this is always the goal, but it’s not always that easy. The perfect day would involve being productive with a feeling of accomplishment. Especially creating new and custom pieces for clients and getting specific orders shipped out.

Where does collaboration come into play with your craft?

Collaboration generally comes in the form of friendship with other makers and artisans supporting each other by giving each other advice and inspiration.

How and when do you decide to celebrate a victory?

The end of a hard days work might come with a small celebration. I’ll set small goals (and victories) for myself, just to make it through particular busy times.

Luke’s space is full of fun odds and ends, like these antique watch parts.

What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?

Your best work is your expression yourself…you’re the only expert. -Frank Gehry

What are some new skills you are trying to acquire to perfect your craft?

My skills are always evolving. Generally, wood work has been the standard. But I’ve been experimenting with various different materials (concrete, ceramic, and fabric). Skills definitely come with time and patience.

How do you recharge your creativity?

I love to travel and think it’s a great way to both recharge and gain some inspiration along the way.

Get your own Mr. Owl Touch Lamp here »

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