English avant-garde lighting artist Alex Randall creates striking designs that feature stuffed wild animals. Her clients include celebrities such as Hollywood film star Susan Sarandon, British chat show host Graham Norton and 'sundry rock stars' as well as hoteliers and restaurateurs in London and New York.
What is it about lighting that interests you? 'It's so natural for humans and animals to be drawn towards light. To me it seems such a waste to use a white paper shade [for example]. I think lighting should be theatrical and dramatic and I like to design lighting that will last: a work of art that becomes an antique and not just something that is practical. My grandfather was an electrician and doing stuff with electrics was never out of bounds for me when I was a child. I created my first lamp when I was eight years old. It was made of rock and bits of smashed glass. It was a mess.'
Why do you incorporate animals in your designs? 'When I first started to design lighting I couldn't afford my own studio so my parents kindly lent me their barn near their house in Devon [southern England]. Being surrounded by wildlife and nature was inspiring. Now my studio is in London and pigeons often come inside. I love watching them and also the foxes and other animals that have adapted to urban life, including rats. I was obsessed with birds as a child. My parents used to have a large conservatory and birds were always flying into it and breaking their necks and I'd go out and try to resuscitate them.'
Why choose the dark art of taxidermy to create lighting? 'I started working with taxidermy in 2008, for a London company that was creating a Victorian street theme and they wanted lights that had a sense of movement. There is no street in London without a few pigeons, so that's what I used in my designs. I'm interested in taxidermy because it makes use of waste products: I use only animals that have been culled or thrown away. I'll come up with the ideas and I have a taxidermist who does the work - he's been doing it for about 25 years - it's not something you can learn overnight.'
You create bespoke lighting in collaboration with clients. What's the most bizarre request you've had? 'I did a large installation in New Zealand with jays, which are birds from the UK, but this Kiwi guy was keen on them, so I incorporated them for him. A lot of people are not sure what they want and are looking for inspiration, which I can help with. I do sometimes get some bizarre requests. One guy asked me to design something using a zebra that he'd shot in South Africa. I politely declined.'