EnergySafe Magazine Autumn 2015, issue 39 - Page 12

12 Feature story Seeing the light Thomas Seymour might just be our only industrial designer-electrician. Charlotte Roseby meets an electrician with a unique skill set and a good eye. A former professional industrial designer focusing on light design, Thomas Seymour has since become a fully licensed, registered electrical contractor, lighting designer and manufacturer of some pretty gorgeous lights. It took him some time to weave the strands together, but he has now created Thomas Seymour Design+Electrical, an electrical business with a distinctive value-add of great design. He really can bring a design to light. He starts, he says, by really understanding a client’s vision for the space: “I have my own impressions of how I would light and use a space when I visit a client but, in the end, I won’t be living there. It is of utmost importance to me that my client enjoys using the space when the job is complete. So I want to know how, when and what a space is going to be used for and then I can design a lighting solution based on that.” Industrial designer—removalist From the beginning, Thomas always had both creative and technical aptitude. After a brief period thinking he wanted to be an electrical engineer, Thomas began studying industrial design as soon as he finished school (a sensible suggestion— thanks mum!). Industrial designers create and produce designs for commercial, medical and industrial products, as well as making models and prototypes of these designs for mass production. This includes a wide range of manufactured goods, from toys and toasters to furniture and heavy machinery. In Thomas’s case, it was lights. He worked designing, creating and improving on a range of lighting products for more than 10 years, including an intensively creative year working for Lab Architecture Studio, the international practice whose projects include Melbourne’s Fed Square. Industrial design is painstaking and demanding, says Thomas. Designers need to consider materials, cost, production methods, new technology, safety, fashion trends, function, quality, consumer appeal, ergonomics, the environment, as well as marketing and business strategy. That was all do-able, says Thomas, but he just wasn’t cut out to sit at a desk all day. It was, strangely, a chance encounter with one of the owners of Man with a Van that moved his career onto a different path. At that stage, the large removals company with its fleet of trucks (and its large team of what the company calls “thoroughly pleasant fellows”) was just two guys with a couple of vans. What happened next surprised even Thomas: “I hit him up for a job! I just asked if I could come and work with him for a while … It turned out to be one of the happiest years I’ve had.” The following year, which Thomas spent in London and Berlin to further his design career, cemented his realisation that he needed a change of pace. “I realised I was really healthy and felt really good during that year with Man with a Van. I wanted to do something physical, but I knew I couldn’t be a removalist all my life so I knew I needed a trade.” That was his lightbulb moment. Thomas realised that electrical training would close his skills loop: he could invent, design, produce, manufacture and install quality lighting. Design meets electrical and construction It was challenging being a mature-age apprentice, says Thomas. “… Actually, it was mostly just awkward. I was taking instruction from people years younger than me who were feeling uncomfortable dealing with someone who had been around, travelled—and I’d just had my first child, so we were at different life stages.” “I love designing a light in isolation from an environment and then seeing the many and varied ways that other people end up using them.” Thomas took up his apprenticeship with VicTec. “I got a lot of different experiences,” he says. “It can be challenging if you’re viewed as labour hire but, if you show a real willingness and put a lot of effort in, you get the opportunities.” His opportunities included 18 months installing building management systems, and 15 months with PSG doing electrical construction wor