See the Light
FIELD TRIP – January 2013
By Veronique Mcaree | Photography Amanda Kowalski
On Deer Isle, designer Julie Morringello and her company, Modernmaine, offer an exciting collective of beautiful lighting. Here, we shine a little light on the artist’s work.
Julie Morringello’s converted barn-studio and you immediately notice delicate, luminous orbs floating cloudlike from the ceiling, in sharp contrast to the behemoth table saw, planer, and jointer beneath.
The setting and the ethereal light fixtures seem at odds. But the collection of industrial-sized power tools is integral to Morringello’s creative world.
The Rhode Island School of Design graduate stumbled upon her career as a lighting artist only after making her way down several other paths and spending more than two decades in the furniture making, industrial design, and craft fields.
“I was searching for something different,” Morringello says. “I wanted to evolve, try something new—with new materials, new shapes, and a new way of thinking.” Luckily for design and lighting enthusiasts, she followed through and made the change. Modernmaine was born in 2011, allowing Morringello to combine her passion for manual handiwork with digital technologies.
Modernmaine’s designs are organic, comfortable, and elegant. From great big paper or plastic orbs to a one-of-a-kind wooden chandelier, each piece emits a soft, filtered light and seems designed to shine—even when the light is turned off.
Morringello’s Uni pendant and floor lamps are playfully named after the Japanese word for sea urchin, and indeed they feature that creature’s distinct shape: a central light socket is surrounded by a colorful Japanese-paper shade made out of a surprising material: Tyvek. The shades are available in a variety of colors and designs that can be swapped out to match decor, occasion, or mood. The modular design is great news for customers, who won’t need to buy another fixture if they tire of the look. They can even replace the shade with a paper creation of their own choosing.
If Uni is completely customizable, Loop Light takes the concept further: it arrives as a kit. Morringello precuts strips of paper-thin wood veneer or Tyvek and instructs customers to fold the strips into loops, then use the provided snaps to attach them to a central translucent core. It’s easy and creates a magnificent modern fixture, designed by Morringello but made by you.
The Uni and Loop lamps are on my wish list, but it’s the Ingrid Chandelier that won me over on my Modernmaine field trip. In order to see the Ingrid, another mini field trip was required. I left the barn for Sophie’s Cup, the Deer Isle village cafe where the Ingrid hangs dramatically above latté, cappucino, and espresso drinkers.
According to Morringello, the chandelier was inspired by the thousands of old barns that dot the Maine landscape. So, she says, “Don’t look for Swarovski crystals—Ingrid’s ‘crystals’ are actually wooden disks made of Douglas fir hanging from a round steel frame.” The effect is exquisite and then some.
Take a field trip to Modernmaine, where Morringello is happy to work with your lighting needs. Or visit the Modernmaine website at modernmaine.com.
WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION?
“Much of my inspiration comes from the materials themselves. My favorite part of the design process is experimenting with materials: how can they be cut or shaped, and what do they want to be? If it’s a well-known material, I like to try to use it in a new way, or combine it with something unexpected. I am also inspired by architecture and interiors—not just habitable spaces but architecture in the broader sense, ‘the built environment.'”
“Vintage flower frogs. I started collecting them after my first trip to Maine; their shape reminds me of the fir-covered islands that dot Penobscot Bay.”
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE FIELD TRIPS IN MAINE?
“Any trip that takes me through Belfast, so I can stop at Chase’s Daily! I literally plan my drives around their schedule. Closer to home it is wonderful to hop in my kayak and paddle to a nearby island.”
WHAT’S NEXT FOR MODERNMAINE?
“More new lighting designs! And I’m about to launch a new website. I like to keep things fresh.”
1. Modern beauties: the Loop (background) and Uni (foreground) pendant lamps.
2. Tyvek is used for this pendant light, but Morringello is happy to construct the lamp with other materials, offering endless possibilities for customization.
3. Designer Julie Morringello with an inspiration board in her Deer Isle studio.
4. The designer painstakingly experimenting with fishing wire for a new design (not yet available).
5. Cutting loops for a Loop Light sample.
6. A classic New England farmhouse and barn where Morringello lives and designs Modernmaine’s collection of mod lamps.
TAKE A FIELD TRIP TO MODERNMAINE:
26 SCHOOL STREET IN STONINGTON