A Light Touch

July 2019

To understand the origin of the hands-on approach of Montreal-based founder of Lambert & Fils Samuel Lambert, you’d have to know about his upbringing. Growing up with a father who was a ceramist meant seeing his father in the workshop, working with his hands, testing, experimenting. The artistic playfulness of his father’s work was contagious, and therefore followed Samuel into his youth and young adulthood. He studied film studies and fine art and in his free time, or perhaps instead of sleeping, he worked on mixed media installations. The installations weren’t just about creating a film or making an exhibition, it was about creating a context in which the films had a right of being. It was through this process that he began learning how to build structures, construct something with a purpose, to perfect the practical and aesthetic aspects of an object.

After art school didn’t yield a lot of job opportunities, Samuel’s entrepreneurial fibre flared and with his extensive knowledge of video technology, a keen eye for detail and compositional ease, he started his own video post-production agency. They say that your life changes when you have a child, and it couldn’t be truer in Samuel’s case. After developing his company for 15 years, his first son was born, creating “a good moment to ask myself some questions about my life. The work I was doing was technical and detached from any kind of context” Aiming to find creative fulfilment, be a happy father and husband, Samuel opened a small workshop of curiosities.

Samuel has moulded his little 60²m Beaubien street shop into a successful lighting design studio counting 60 people. All of the collections are designed, manufactured and assembled in Montreal. Samuel puts a lot of weight on the design being local, and he’s obsessed with materials. This means that they collaborate with various glass blowers, foundries and other kinds of artisans from around the area. Their main market, however, isn’t in Montreal. The city is full of creativity and artists, encouraging Lambert & Fils to show their striking pieces internationally—in Europe, Australia and Asia.

Most recently Lambert & Fils got together with Studio Dwa and Caffe Populaire to create a six-day pop-up cafe for Milan design week. It was in the Alcova exhibition space, where Lambert & Fils showed the two latest collections–Sainte and Hutchinson (each of the collections are named after neighbourhoods or streets in Montreal). The latter was created from an architectural reference, reminding Lambert of tiled European roofs.  The Sainte collection includes lamps made out of coloured, double layered four sided cuboids with a tape threaded through the two open sides, holding it up. The lamps are deceptively sleek and minimalist in gesture, but required a great deal of testing and prototyping to reach the desired result. The pieces that hung in Milan are site-specific designs. “In Milan, you have to be bold.” Samuel said of the colour palette. The pieces that will go into production in the Autumn will be more toned down and the form significantly smaller. The existing designs are made out of double-layered glass panes, making them much too heavy for domestic ceilings.

Collaborative, interactive exhibitions like the one in Milan is very much in the spirit of Lambert & Fils. People from Montreal are known for their humility and generosity, and Samuel is the personification of that. The artistic spirit in Lambert is curious, ever-searching for a new challenge. It’s the need for the next challenge that drives him forward. He also gets a great deal of inspiration by using the front space of his first 60²m space as a sort of exhibition space where young artists can show their work and play. It’s not a showroom by any means. ‘Our vision for the space is to showcase projects that challenge the intersection between design and artistic practices while fostering connections between Montreal and our broader international communities,’ he explains. Expanding this concept is the next challenge—to create a Lambert & Fils space in New York. We look forward to visiting.

Caffe Populaire, Sainte Lamp detail, © Arseni Khamzin
Feu de Camp instalation at Corridor Gallery, Image courtesy of Lambert & Fils
Caffe Populaire, installation view, © Arseni Khamzin
Caffe Populaire, installation view, © Arseni Khamzin
Caffe Populaire, Sainte Lamp detail, © Arseni Khamzin
Caffe Populaire, Sainte Lamp detail, © Arseni Khamzin
Part of the design team in the office, Image courtesy of Lambert & Fils
Part of the design team in the office, Image courtesy of Lambert & Fils
Samuel Lambert, Image courtesy of Lambert & Fils
Samuel Lambert, Image courtesy of Lambert & Fils
Part of the design team in the office, Image courtesy of Lambert & Fils
This article appeared in DAM73. Order your personal copy.