To Find the Answers, Christopher Boots Stays Grounded

The freethinking Australian founded his tight-knit lighting studio on the principle of fiat lux, or “let there be light”—and in his tenth year of operation, he’s mining inspiration both earthly and divine to let the light in.

The freethinking Australian founded his tight-knit lighting studio on the principle of fiat lux, or “let there be light”—and in his tenth year of operation, he’s mining inspiration both earthly and divine to let the light in.

You started collecting rocks and crystals during walks as a kid. What drew you to them, and what do they represent to you? 

 Where would we be if there was no ground? Nothing is as important as our own earth and the rocks beneath our feet. When I was six, I found a little handbook called “Rocks and Minerals” on a junk shop excursion that inspired me to look at the world, starting with my feet. I have fond memories of collecting natural objects discovered on adventures as a child—shells, stones, leaves—that I dutifully decorated my bedroom with. 

I’ve always turned to nature as a grounding source of inspiration. Subconsciously informing my visual language, the studio is an extension of that curiosity. Whether at home or in the studio, my desks, tables, windowsills, and floors are all covered in a textural spectrum of minerals. These are daily reminders that creative expression is influenced by what we’re surrounded with. These elemental crystalline structures contain innate stories of creation, color, complexity, and timelessness—all evidence of the physical world in which we’re intrinsically linked. We come from dust and return to dust. Lost in an ephemeral digital world, we sometimes forget that.

Your studio is founded on the principle of fiat lux, which translates to “let there be light”—a line from the third verse of Genesis. You also studied literature at university. How do literature and religion influence your practice today?  

I’m a voracious reader. Books are portals to other worlds. I value compounded knowledge and the immense learning and guidance they offer. Reading is like downloading thoughts. Religion is simply a smartly designed vehicle for transporting ideas across time. Who controls history? That’s the issue with our modern day, isn’t it? Everything is interdependent and related: Nature, chemistry, and engineering are the standards from which ergonomics, geopolitics, and culture grow. Reality is that which doesn’t go away when we stop thinking about it. We need a new vehicle to transport us. 

My formal education veered from early studies in cinema, media, linguistics, and English literature before quickly discovering industrial design was my calling. Changing the world by design, moving beyond words, creating light, and influencing the perception of our homes and spaces, silent objects speak loud with presence telling their stories, grounding and inspiring. Environment shapes behavior. Whether formal or informal, everything I’ve learned influences the studio today. I have piles of sketchbooks, journals, and pads, not to mention the digital soup of articles, images, and memes. One day I’d like to build a library and gift it.

Your work has such a strong reverence for nature and honoring where we came from, but also an element of artifice in that lighting fixtures are a man-made innovation. What’s the most difficult part of striking this balance in your work? 

Making things simple. That takes a lot of work.

When we last caught up, you were steeped in a lawsuit about knocking off your lighting fixtures. What does original design mean to you? 

Original design is the culmination of years of research, experimentation, and expression. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing your work presented in an environment for people to admire, which is why it’s so crushing to see counterfeit products continue to multiply. Our work only comes to life through the hands of our community of makers and artisans whose skill I deeply admire. These people need to be celebrated, not knocked off. Understanding the value of original design is a matter of ongoing education. Designers need to vocalize the importance of creating original works and encourage others to understand the impacts of the disposable replica industry on ourselves, society, and the environment.  

Designers have an inherent obligation in creating work to avoid the trap of consumption for the sake of appearances. What’s the point of making landfill when you can make heirlooms to last? We need to step away from the old world of consumption and take a longer-term view. The arc of the universe bends towards justice. This applies to our social and environmental systems. We’re seeing this everywhere all at once. Late capitalism is in decay and I’m here for it. Design plays a crucial role in making this happen. Buy once, buy well, buy forever.  

With all the natural disasters in Australia on top of the global calamities of the past few years, how do you stay grounded and focused? 

Meditation. Sitting in the sunlight first thing in the morning, gathering thoughts and reflecting on dreams from the night before, and having a good coffee. Running in the background of my mind throughout the day is William Irvine’s “last time” meditation. Practicing this every day keeps me going as we never know how long we’ve got. Today could be that last day. So I make it count. Life is about giving and being, not getting and having. This is what keeps me grounded.   

What about staying organized? 

Habits and rituals. Morning moments. Coffee. Writing. Calendars. Journals. It’s important to acknowledge when you’re most creative. I’m far more energized in the evenings. Finding what works for you is crucial to using your time wisely. I’m fortunate to have an incredible team facilitating the day-to-day, enabling me to explore my creative mindset: ideating, sketching, building narratives intertwined with research, and exploring materials. I never rush this.

You’ve cited Geoffrey Mance as an influence and compared your experience apprenticing with him to that of a “guild.” Does your studio have a similar atmosphere? 

 I’d like to think so. Geoffrey was an incredible lighting designer who I worked with after my industrial design studies. My time with him was an unbelievable learning experience. He’d experiment with unexpected and thought-provoking materials and processes, creating an indelible impact on my own approach. He taught me to lean into experimentation and not be limited by fear—to embrace the freedom of new ideas, making mistakes, and learning from them. I never flinch when experimenting with ideas, processes, or materials as I’ve seen where experimentation can lead you: The pleasures of the unknown.

What’s your favorite part about living and working in Melbourne? 

The vibrant and eclectic atmosphere. From the European-inspired architecture to the diverse and inclusive community, every step you take is a celebration of culture and creativity. The energy here is contagious and invigorating, making every day a new adventure. It’s a city that truly amplifies the spirit, making me feel inspired, informed, and playful all at once. It’s a progressive place while embracing the whimsical, irreverent, and optimistic aspects of life.

What’s normally on your mind when assembling a fixture? 

Is the outcome as the idea intended? Will it reach that image in my mind? I’m thinking about rocks and crystals, reminding myself of the connection between humanity and nature, and the importance of grounding myself in the physical world. Remaining mindful of the history and qualities contained within the minerals, their creation, color, complexity, and timelessness. 

You’ve said “intuitively exploring aesthetics through materials and working with design principles and functions without even knowing that they felt as natural as breathing.” More than a decade after launching your studio, do you still feel that way?  

Feelings come and go like clouds. Exploring and learning never goes out of fashion. They say everything meaningful can be measured, but alas, ten years is a measurement of time. It felt remarkable to be celebrating our 11th year of practice in November, fittingly 11/11/22. Underlying this decade is one common thread: the ability to imagine a better future, do what we can with what we’ve got, and enjoy ourselves along the way. 

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