lighting design

The Big Tree Of Christmas Presence

December has seen the return on Darc Night, an awards ceremony with a twist and organised by Mondo Arc magazine and Light Collective.

Each year selected lighting designers are teamed up with a sponsor / manufacturer – with the brief of creating a one-off light installation.

This year we were teamed with Ligman with the theme being ‘Christmas Tree’.   

From Ligman, we worked closely with Martin Valentine, Global Design Director. A man with an unparalleled passion for light. Martin provided an unbelievable amount of experience to this project.


It All Came Together Like This

Let’s share with you how it all worked…

The spawn of creativity behaviour starts with a concept and our initial concept was very simple, the idea being to pile products in to a huge Christmas tree formation.

Like all concepts, we started to play and before long the idea expanded (and also became a quiet homage to Blade Runner).


Progressing an idea, meant asking more questions and solving challenges. This resulted in models, renders and technical support from Ligman.    

Martin stated, “Working with Michael Grubb Studio was great, we swapped roles. When one went with crazy, the other took a more subtle route and vice versa.”


Every Christmas tree grows from a seed. Ours just happened to be a fabricated metal framework.



Ligman are a global company, but to meet deadline we required a temporary home. So that meant every delivery being sent from Ligman’s factory to Martin Valentine’s garage (in Whitstable, Kent). Stuart then took refuge in Whitstable and it was time to get to work.

Martin said, “I have a love of light, I found the right person to work with. I admired Stuart’s ideas, we always went deeper with what we could achieve.”


Take a product, play with it, stencil it, spray it, love it, add a pattern, make it special.

We wanted a weathered look as though our tree was created many years ago. The spraying brought this to life.


No one ever wanted just one present, you want a sack full of gifts (and fittings) with textures and patterns.

Stuart highlighted, “This is where our graphics started to become very real.”


Joe Jones (on the left), from Lamps & Amps, is like our nativity shepherd and a good friend of Michael Grubb Studio. Once again Joe was with us on site unpacking every single luminaire.  It was now a matter of making it work.


One of the biggest challenges was controlling the light output of over 100 luminaires.

Our approach was to use copper and other techniques to diffuse and influence the lit effect.


Back in September, Stuart spoke about ‘For the Love of Cables’ – and here is proof of how they are still relevant and a significant part of our work. 


Clutter always sounds very easy to make. However, trust us, randomness is an extremely tough thing to achieve – especially when you are trying to align the optics of light. There is meaning to everything. 


In Blade Runner a dove ascends into the dark and rainy skies. At the top of the Christmas tree, our origami dove represents the celebration of life and the fun that goes with putting your energy into projects that champion creativity.

Martin concluded, “Whilst we went for a random approach, everything had a point to it. It was very deliberate and the decoration has a clear purpose.”


A night to celebrate with friends, allies and those we are close to within the industry we care about and strive to make this world a progressive and inclusive place.

It feels good to be a part of the lighting community.


Our public realm lighting scheme for Black Prince Road, in London, also won a Darc Award that night. Click here to read the story.


Let’s Conclude

Darc Night means a lot to all of us at Michael Grubb Studio. You learn a lot from delivering projects that have an all round theme, individual interpretation and delivery.

Whilst it was part of an awards occasion, the energy and drive that people give to create inspiring work, perhaps means more than an industry accolade.

We all have a role to go for it and create work that pushes, challenges but always have that sense of fun.