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Stanley Wilson

Issue 51 Oct / Nov 2009

Sharon Stammers talks to the industrious talent behind The Historic Lighting Company

Most PLDA events are open to non-members; as well as giving people a chance to try before they buy, it means we get to bump into interesting characters from the industry who might not otherwise attend. One of these who braved the forecasts of a thunderstorm at our annual Targetti Poulsen picnic was Stanley Wilson of The Historic Lighting Company.

Just over a year ago Stanley listed a single enamelled ‘coolie’ shade on eBay, under the user name ‘historiclighting’. Within weeks he’d begun working alongside national and international designers and architects. He gave up his job at Light Projects at the start of the year - a time when most people were trying to hang on to theirs - to focus on historic lighting projects full time. What was an eBay username is now a company, supplying a unique range of vintage industrial lighting and accessories.

This is Stanley’s story in his own words:
“I grew up in Halifax, West Yorkshire. After various dead-end jobs and escapades I knew I needed a proper job - preferably a creative one that could get me out of the town. The rave scene came late to the north and was still exploding in ‘94. I’d got involved in setting up and promoting raves and had dry hired lighting and smoke machines from White Light Ltd, who kept a warehouse up North back then. I was spellbound by lighting and in an unusually prescient moment I wrote a letter to the boss begging him for a job, he knocked me back at first and I spent another year outside the business. Then one day the phone rang and I was in - coiling and repairing dirty hire stock cable. That was nearly 15 years ago and I’ve worked in lighting ever since.

The Historic Lighting Company began life because I’ve always been interested in old industrial lighting and I needed extra money on top of my regular job at Light Projects. I removed a couple of hundred enamel factory shades from a redundant textile mill in Bradford which I’d lived in briefly while setting up a band (times were hard and we needed to make a lot of noise) and listed them on eBay. They sold well.

People began asking technical questions which I was happy to answer and enquiring about the various accessories required to complete the ‘look’ - fabric cable, hooks, chains, pattresses, lamps etc, so I tracked them down and began offering those too. I like things from the past but I’m absolutely not an antique dealer. I’m interested in designs, not objects - how things look, how they are made and what they are made from - not how old they are or how few there are in the world - I stock old and new.

Almost everything I sell is made in the UK or EU and I’m slowly making that 100%. The social and economic effects of transferring our manufacturing base out of the UK and Europe break my heart. I get most of my metal work done in Yorkshire, the recession has hit the North particularly badly and traditional manufacturers are closing down left, right and centre. These are the kind of blokes I was at school with and we try to place all the orders we can.

I care about lighting like I care about food or sleep. I’ve given it my whole working life and I’m as fascinated by it today as I was at the start.”


Stanley Wilson
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