Beau McClellan on what drives him to create his most imaginative lights

Portugal-based artist and designer Beau McClellan discusses with STIR his relationship with light and how designers need passion to make their dreams a reality.

by Pallavi Mehra Published on : Nov 19, 2020

Portugal-based design studio Bybeau creates magnificent large-scale light installations and spectacular lighting fixtures. This internationally renowned firm is led by Creative Director Beau McClellan, who is a sculptor, blacksmith, set designer, stage manager, art director, lighting designer and actor. Bybeau’s latest collection—XYZ showcases the brand’s trademark awe-inspiring design aesthetic and the latest in lighting technology.

Here, the multifaceted Beau McClellan discusses his inspirations, his design processes and the ultimate goal of his works.

Beau McClellan is a sculptor, blacksmith, set designer, stage manager, art director, lighting designer and actor| Beau McClellan | Bybeau | STIRworld
Beau McClellan is a sculptor, blacksmith, set designer, stage manager, art director, lighting designer and actor Image: Courtesy of Bybeau

Pallavi Mehra (PM): Please tell us a little about your journey as a sculptor, blacksmith, set designer, stage manager, art director, lighting designer and actor.

Beau McClellan (BM): I think I have always been a creative, even as a child I was always looking for new ways to express myself; art, music, sculpture…that playfulness never left me. It led me to becoming a blacksmith, working with the light of the fire. It inspired me, and I started to become more and more fascinated with light itself as a way of creating emotion and mood.

I have always been involved with theatre, with film, so the theatricality was an element that came naturally to me. I love to see the reaction on people’s faces when they see something that just blows them away. It’s like being on stage yourself. It’s rock and roll. That passion stayed with me too, I am still just as enthusiastic about a new project, when I can see what I want to create, something comes over me – it’s like being a kid again! The best thing is being able to take that spark to my team, fan the flames and start doing what we love – making light magical.

PM: All your roles revolve around space, form and character. How do you observe one flowing into the other and yet remaining separate in function? Can you be one without the other?

BM: I am always interested in pushing boundaries. That means using whatever technologies and methods you have at your disposal to fully realise your concept or vision. So, you think like an artist—you have to have every brush, every paint, every shade, ready in your palette. To make the extraordinary, you have to start without limits, to believe that anything is possible – then when you have dreamt up something no one else has, you can start worrying about how to make it a reality.

Bybeau’s lightings have been installed at public places like music festivals and fashion shows | Dimple| Bybeau | STIRworld
Bybeau’s lightings have been installed at public places like music festivals and fashion shows Image: Courtesy of Bybeau

PM: What inspires you to create the lighting products and installations that you do? What is your relationship with light and darkness?

BM: Light is how we see the world, isn't it? It's how we process everything, every day. So, I think light is life, that it is a living part of our daily lives, affecting and affected by our moods and movements. Moments of calm, moments of drama—our work tries to reflect these things. We have worked hard to try and bring our conceptual designs into everyday life. So it’s not just for art fairs or catwalks, it's for the home or the office. It’s for everybody, because I think we all need that, that little bit of magic in our lives.

Bybeau’s spectacular lights are also popular for homes and offices | XYZ| Bybeau | STIRworld
Bybeau’s spectacular lights are also popular for homes and offices Image: Courtesy of Bybeau

PM: Please talk about your process, both how you conceive or plan your lighting designs and then how do you go about making the work?

BM: I think the key is trying to stay in the moment, which isn't always easy! If you can stay passionate and engaged with the world around you, then inspiration can strike anywhere, at any time – you just have to make yourself receptive. Light is dancing around everywhere, so everyday things like reflections in a car window or a light bouncing off a glass of water can be the start of something.

It's like a big bang moment. Then the real work begins, as we develop the idea, this is where having the right team around helps me so much, because it then becomes a collaborative process. But the most important thing, for me, is making sure I keep that original flash of inspiration at the front of my mind, to guide our work and keep the idea as pure as I can.

Beau McClellan advises designers to stay passionate and engaged with the world around| Beau McClellan | Bybeau | STIRworld
Beau McClellan advises designers to stay passionate and engaged with the world around Image: Courtesy of Bybeau

PM: Your lighting designs bridge the expanse between art commissions and commercial products. What is your ultimate goal for these works?

BM: I don’t really see the two things as separate. To me, it’s always been pretty simple, it’s easier for me to be involved in all elements of every project, to understand them all. I can design a mood or a concept because I understand how light behaves, how the technology works and, sometimes more importantly, how people behave towards light. But for me, the most exciting thing about working on larger scale concepts is that they allow us to develop new technology and design innovations that we can apply to commercial products, so they provide us with a unique, organic source of inspiration. The creative process then continues as we evolve the concept into new directions.

Bybeau’s lighting designs bridge the expanse between art commissions and commercial products | Dimple| Bybeau | STIRworld
Bybeau’s lighting designs bridge the expanse between art commissions and commercial products Image: Courtesy of Bybeau

PM: Your collections feature the latest in lighting innovations such as the highest grade LEDs. How do you decide which materials and technology to use for a particular lighting design?

BM: Every project brings new challenges, we try to push ourselves so almost everything we do has not been done before. That means we have to figure a lot of things out as we go. There's a pragmatic side of what we do, it's not all artistic, conceptual work. We have to work out how we are going to actually make these things, to hang them from rooftops or ceilings. We spend a lot of time making models and prototypes before we start climbing buildings, but this to me is what is the highlight of all my work. When you spend all that time trying to solve the puzzle, to make something work, when you see people's reaction to the finished piece – when you see their faces and see that wow moment…that's my highlight, that's why I do what I do.

PM: All your works showcase path-breaking forms. What advice do you have for lighting designers who want to achieve a similar design aesthetic?

BM: I think passion is the most important tool a good designer has. It's passion that gets you past the toughest obstacles, it's passion that keeps you fighting to make a project happen and it's passion that keeps you engaged and aware of the world around you – and expressing that world is what a good lighting designer will do.

Bybeau’s collections feature the latest in lighting innovations such as the highest grade LEDs | Fairmont Hotel, Hamburg| Bybeau | STIRworld
Bybeau’s collections feature the latest in lighting innovations such as the highest grade LEDs Image: Courtesy of Bybeau

PM: What's next for your lighting design studio Bybeau? What kind of collections can we expect to see in the future?

BM: Our latest lighting collection XYZ is going to be our leading collection for quite some time. What we have done with XYZ is to really push the boundaries in lighting technology. Furthermore, I really believe in chromotherapy—the healing powers of different colours of light. For our future collections, we are looking at beautiful pieces that combine chromotherapy, aromatherapy and sound therapy. Moreover, we just finished a sculpture called Chaos and we are going to work on more sculpture pieces this year.

Bybeau’s XYZ collection showcases path-breaking forms  | XYZ| Bybeau | STIRworld
Bybeau’s XYZ collection showcases path-breaking forms Image: Courtesy of Bybeau

PM: What lies in the future for you? Are you open to future acting roles?

BM: The problem is that I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up! Jokes aside, I don’t know what lies in the future for me. Along with my lighting and sculpture designs, I am also working on a script that I would possibly like to produce. Additionally, I am reading a bunch of scripts for acting roles as well. Let’s see, I don’t know what’s next!

Beau McClellan plans to continue to push the boundaries of lighting design | Dimple| Bybeau | STIRworld
Beau McClellan plans to continue to push the boundaries of lighting design Image: Courtesy of Bybeau

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