Thomas Cooper Studio founders and creative partners Sally Thomas Cooper and Jason Kai Cooper.

Thomas Cooper Studio Elevates Design to 
the Status of an Art Form

Thomas Cooper Studio is a bespoke design collaboration between creative partners Sally Thomas Cooper and Jason Kai Cooper, already well known in the design industry for their modern lighting brands Luxe and Lusive. The pair founded Thomas Cooper Studio to explore, they say, “the material and sculptural essence of lighting.” Incollect sat down with the Los Angeles-based design team to talk about materials and the importance of artisanal hand craftsmanship.

By Benjamin Genocchio 

How would you describe your sensibility as designers?

Modern and sculptural with an emphasis on form and material.

The Gaia Dining Chandelier in the Linear 7 format, with 7 heavily pebbled and ribbed glass lanterns suspended from a brutalist bronze frame with cast rough-hewn detailing. Gaia is also available in Linear 5 and Linear 4 formats and as a Trio of pendants or surface mount.

What is your inspiration?

Oh gosh — where do we start? We are inspired by everything.

Art — we visit art and design galleries all over the country and the world as we travel. A recent major inspiration was a trip to St Ives in Cornwall in England to study the work of painters and craftspeople there in the 20th century; the work of bronze sculptor Barbara Hepworth and ceramicist Bernard Leach have been particular inspirations for both of us. Sally’s family is from Cornwall, so to travel there and see the work and the environment that inspired it — that for us was priceless. 

Nature — frequent trips to the coasts of Sally’s native New Zealand have inspired recent works including our recent RItes Of Return series with New Zealand driftwood elements hand cast in bronze. 

Materials — all our materials and our amazing international and local artisans who work with them; every year we travel to Europe and spend time with our longtime Murano glass and Tuscan alabaster artisanal partners.

Left:   A kitchen island illuminated by the Mezzo Chandelier. Glowing cristale crackle glass with warm-toned antique brass framework is juxtaposed in a Mondrian-inspired composition. Four standard sizes plus custom sizes are available. Right: The Disco wall mount fixture offers artful illumination and adds a sculptural element to this entrance hall. Held by angular antique brass branches, hand-cast organic textured glass blossoms scatter a graceful confetti of light. The design, which received an Interior Design’s 2023 Best of Year Award, is available as a wall flush mount, ceiling flush mount, or ceiling pendant. 

So tradition and craftsmanship are important to you?

Yes. Recently we met a new alabaster supplier in Tuscany whose family has been in the business for six generations — it was inspiring to see old photos, new children, a history of living and working with a material in one area…amazing.

Our long relationships with glassmakers from Italy and the history of the craft continue to inspire us.

The Marchesa Chandelier (left) and Sconce (right) present a striking contrast of textures with sparkling Rostrato-style spiked double glass cones joined by brushed brass cummerbunds.  

What materials do you prefer to work in and why? 

Glass, usually hand blown and cast in Venice or cast in California. The history of glass art in both the US and Europe inspires us in so many of our designs.

Natural stone, in particular, the organic qualities of alabaster, quartz and onyx are a big part of our work. We love the way light travels through the material, the curves and texture of the stones.

Are there other materials you haven't used you would like to work with? 

Over the 20 years we have worked together in lighting there isn’t much we haven’t made a light out of — and we love it! Metals, glass, stone, wood, even found objects. On the hospitality side of our business, we have created custom commissions from recycled bottles, fishing buoys, and even eyeglasses.

The Mon Coeur Dining Chandelier: Dots and swirls of light span through sand-cast seeded glass colonnades held by a sleek polished stainless steel frame.

Everything you make is contemporary but also hand-crafted. Why is that important to you?

Our Thomas Cooper Studio collections are contemporary in style reflecting our love of smooth, sleek lines and silhouettes. Matched with artisanal processes, we can express our designs and show the skill of the handmade processes in the work.

The history of the original processes and materials means we can keep these alive at a time when fast fashion and mass production have become commonplace. We believe we need to keep the original arts and creative methods alive. On a recent trip to Venice, we visited the ancient silk weaving workshop of Luigi Bevilacqua where young people are being trained on 18th-century looms in a business that started in the 1500s. This is real history. It is beautiful and inspiring.

The Abba Chandelier is born, Step 1: The hand-drawn sketch and materials samples; hand-carved alabaster fins and cast nickel frame and alternate finish palette for consideration.

Step 2: In the Los Angeles production facility, where each piece is individually handcrafted by a team of skilled artisans.

Step 3: The piece is assembled and hung in the factory.

Step 4: The Abba Chandelier’s glowing halo effect is animated by a sense of movement created by its gracefully curved alabaster fins.

What are some of the skills, techniques, and processes used to create your designs?

Design development is usually old-style sketching. Jason is always sketching ideas on any imaginable piece of paper or on his iPad. 

A rough sketch on paper became a reality, the Touchstone Linear Chandelier.

Prototyping is important too: we will take our sketches to our material vendors and collaborate face-to-face on how best to use the material. Then the analog meets the digital as our team creates 3d models to be sure the lines are good from every angle and we engineer every connection point and wire to create the best effect. 

For production processes, what we use are varied and multiple. Bronze casting, sand casting, hand blowing glass, hand carving stone, hand welding metal. So yes, everything is handmade with us. 

Textured sand-cast glass diffuses light to create a warm, romantic glow. Left: the Mateo Sconce in two sizes: the large 18” and small 12.” Slabs of textured sand-cast glass are framed within angled fins of organic oil-rubbed bronze, the effect enriched by an artisanal aged gold interior. Right: Rigor of form focuses attention on materiality: from a bronze bracket frame with custom link detail, single-cast textured glass walls glow from a row of lights in the Touchstone Linear Chandelier.

Each piece looks like a sculpture. Is that how you think of your designs?

Yes, we approach our collections like this, as sculpture — form is so important. And to add illumination, it creates magic!

How does the division of labor break down between you? What do you each do in the process?

Jason is the head of the design process for all things lighting. Then we brainstorm ideas and inspirations and tag team through the prototyping process as we ensure each design fits the brand aesthetic overall. Sally then gets to name all the pieces. The limited edition pieces that we are offering at upcoming design shows and fairs this year and next (Salon Art + Design, Design Miami, and also for Milan Design Week in 2025) are a true collaboration with an added element — we have now incorporated woven materials. Sally’s knowledge as a textile artist has led to the inclusion of those techniques and materials into our work.

The Halcyon Chandelier: a cascade of smooth solid-cast cristale teardrops clasped in hand-cast textured solid bronze leaves spill from a bronze canopy in linear dining or round format.

Do issues of sustainability factor into product designs?

We are proud to use natural materials and glass production techniques with a high recycled content.

Do you also make mirrors or any furniture?

Yes — stay tuned for our upcoming collection debut!  We will be offering limited editions of mirrors and some incredible tables and benches in a gorgeous mix of precious materials.

Left: The Alma Wall Sconce presents a natural hand-cut alabaster slab that glows in the grasp of a Brutalist-inspired cast bronze setting. Right: Buds of warm hand-carved natural alabaster are nestled in textured Brutalist-inspired cast bronze frames. The Avra Chandelier is available in custom sizes.

What is your most popular product and why do you think this is so? 

The response to the Brutalist style of our Avra and Alma lights has been incredible. The solid cast bronze pieces with accents in natural alabaster are not that typical, or even easy, as a combination to achieve in design and the melding of heavy texture with illuminated lightness is exciting to us.

Are custom versions of pieces able to be tailored to a setting and also available by commission?

Absolutely, and with our background in custom lighting and our amazing team in Los Angeles we are able to customize existing designs or create signature commissions immediately.

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