Anne Kamratowski of Berliner Messinglampen

Category: Future heads

©Anne Kamratowski

©Anne Kamratowski

©Anne Kamratowski

Anne Kamratowski has a particular liking for lamps and luminaires. In 1979 she founded the company Berliner Messinglampen. For some years she built the lamps in her workshop herself. By now, around 10.000 luminaires based on historic models are manufactured each year in her workshop in Berlin. Via the funding programme Design Transfer Bonus, and with the help of Designers from Studio AFS GmbH and a grant in the amount of 15.000 Euro, she has developed a new product line based on the latest LED and manufacturing technology.

Ms Kamratowski, the zeitgeist has changed. While a few years ago products needed to be as affordable as possible it now seems that quality is once again gaining importance. To you, quality has always been key which is why you only use very durable materials such as pure brass. Is there special demand for your lamps at the moment? 

Indeed there seems to be a return to genuine values when it comes to design and craftsmanship. Many people turn away from the current throwaway mentality and when buying consumer durables ask themselves questions such as what a classic means to them, which materials are used during manufacturing and if the purchase is environmentally friendly.

Our special Berlin brass lamps meet these criteria and for decades have been held in high regard by people who appreciate their historical charm, the inimitable warm light created by hand-blown glass and the fine craftsmanship of pure brass materials. We are especially pleased that young people, too, begin to discover the value of our lamps and that some of our luminaires have gained cult status.

Since our luminaires are not just pretty to look at but highly functional and robust, there are more and more people who choose our luminaires for their apartment, office or the furnishing of their business, especially in the restaurant trade. 

You have been on the market for more than twenty years. Looking back, how has your work and the demand for your products changed? Are there any design classics that have always been very sought-after? 

Naturally, in our fast-paced time the market for luminaires is subject to changes. 35 years ago, bric-à-brac was very much in demand. Historical lamps with elaborate decoration, pearl fringes, ruffled lamp shades and flowery decor were all the rage. Since the turn of the millennium the demand is for simple luminaires with clear design and almost exclusively white glass. Nowadays, there is also a trend towards "statement lamps", which are lamps that have a history, were design classics during their stylistic era or that are intended to occupy a special place in an apartment - as design features distinguished by form and colour. Our most famous design classic is the banker's lamp featuring a green shade. There are other luminaires, too, that have had consistent success for decades, such as our round flat ceiling lamp as well as some pendant lights and chandeliers. 

You have also developed a new family of lamps, a project that was supported by the Design Transfer Bonus funding programme. Can you tell us more about this project? 

The programme facilitates the collaboration between Berlin-based producers and local designers and provides us with an opportunity to experiment more than usual and see the world with different eyes. Naturally, an industrial designer's perspective differs from our perspective. These designers not only develop lamps but other commodities, which broadens our horizon and helps to identify the spirit of the times.

With the help of the programme, we were able to develop a modern product, a delicate desk lamp made from aluminium, which marked the beginning of a new family of lamps using the latest LED and manufacturing technology. Of course we have to go about it carefully. After all, it is a bit of a balancing act for us, keeping up with the latest trends in the LED world and at the same time retaining our image. Design Transfer Bonus as a programme is very much suited to leveraging those kinds of projects.

How did you collaborate in practice?

We were able to include highly skilled and younger specialists in the process and they brought a different perspective to the table. We launched the project last year. We initially met every fortnight and worked together in a creative process. However, before we can launch the delicate desk lamp on the market in its current form, we have to cut production costs and obtain the relevant certifications. Also, we are still putting the final touches on some elements of the lamp, including a special switch. Next year the luminaire will be ready to meet all statutory provisions and requirements. Overall, the conditions of the funding programme are relatively straightforward and plausible. It's a good thing.

Not only do you sell luminaires through your catalogue, but you collaborate with architects and interior designers. How important is a good network for a designer and manufacturer of fine brass lamps to be successful in business? 

Luminaires for living spaces are just part of our offer. We also build modern LED lamps and decorative lamps for commercial buildings from all kinds of materials. As we are a genuine lamp factory and don't consider ourselves a lamp trader, we are able to develop all lamps from individual pieces to large-scale series in our factory ourselves and make them into the finished product according to German quality standards in a timely manner. Our partners in Germany and abroad appreciate this and we get regular recommendations in these circles.

A good network is essential when it comes to this, the best ad campaign cannot compensate for these recommendations Particularly in Berlin, it is not easy at all to keep establishing contacts, as there is a constant influx of new people to the city who don't know us and our possibilities yet. Architects and investors often don't expect to find a genuine factory in their vicinity. 

Not only private individuals hang up your lamps in their apartments. In which sectors do businesspeople attach particular importance on brass lamps in a classically modern design? 

Our lamps are particularly used in the restaurant trade, in hotels, churches and on ships. What's most important here is the lighting atmosphere and the decorative components as well as reliable and punctual delivery.

Our historical brass lamps, too, are often used in combination as are our modern LED lamps and other decorative lamps.

Historical buildings - often subject to heritage conservation - such as museums, administrative buildings, train stations as well as rented houses, constitute a special market. We are in a position to faithfully recreate virtually all historical lamps as well as glass lamp shades, if we don't already have them in stock. 

Ms Kamratowski, could you please complete the following sentence: Berlin is... 

... the right mix of tradition, creativity, unconventional solutions with a tad of rebellion.