To celebrate the addition of Riloh’s inaugural collection at the R HUGHES showroom, we were able to catch up with second-generation metalsmith Peyton Avrett and interior designer Melissa Sutton who have joined forces with the goal of creating accessible lighting that transcends conventional notions. We were able to get a sense of how they blur the lines between old-world craftsmanship and modern technology in their pieces as well as what inspires them through the process.
R HUGHES (RH): How did you both jump from what you were doing to designing a lighting collection? Can you describe the transition from Avrett to Riloh? Is RILOH a reinvention of Avrett or something completely new?
Peyton: With Avrett, the narrative was often through custom one-off works or designer collections that we had manufacturing rights to produce. Both types of work were highly rewarding and equally challenging. I often enjoyed outside perspectives on what might be possible to be manufactured. As a second generation metalsmith, I usually approached design with unintentional blinders with the capabilities of the material. It was always fun to have a designer outside of those material parameters approach designs that challenged us on the manufacturing end. That said, I often felt that I had a unique voice and perspective that I wanted to showcase. As Avrett grew into one of the premier one off manufacturers, it grew increasingly difficult to express and explore what I was thinking and looking to achieve. While I could have released it under the Avrett brand, it didn’t feel like Avrett and I was ready for something new. Partnering with Melissa was a natural pivot. Her aesthetic was one that I appreciated and I felt I could compliment with the skills I picked up over the course of a lifetime in metalsmithing trades. She also did a wonderful job of pushing the boundaries within these new Riloh perspectives that were being explored. Like designers, Melissa also approaches designs not thinking about materials inherent restraints. This created a very dynamic partnership.
Melissa: For me, it was timing. I had my own furniture/interior design company and had approached Peyton a few years prior about helping produce a private label lighting line. Fast forward a few years and he came to me with a new concept and presented the opportunity to partner up. Designing lighting was always my end game. It still feels serendipitous that our plans lined up.
Peyton: Avrett had some very wonderful staple designs through our designer line partnerships. For instance the Synapse and Oeuf pendants that we designed with Barry Dixon come to mind. I absolutely love those fixtures. They are interesting and unique, yet familiar, they are modern, yet timeless and they have really stood the test of time. These designs opened the door for me to what is possible, but they were rooted in a particular style of manufacturing and technology that I wanted to move past. As artists, our tastes, interests and desires for our work continue to grow and evolve. I wanted to explore integrated lighting sources, where the illumination aspects of the light fixture were as carefully considered as the design of the light fixture. New technologies have allowed for this exploration. With manufacturing methods, might roots are in artist blacksmithing which is all done by hand. While hand manipulation of metals is a beautiful art, it is very limiting on what type of materials and processes you can implement into this manufacturing method. Avrett had hit its ceiling years ago and I was ready for something new and engaging. I needed a new challenge both with manufacturing technologies but also the voice of this new company. It all had to be something new.
RH: We have seen a distinctive voice from RILOH in its branding and marketing. Where did this voice come from and to whom is it speaking?
Melissa: Peyton and I are very much in line with the long term vision and I have to say there is a lot of trust on his part, as most of the voice starts with me. My ideas are very conceptual and can feel abstract but I tend to lead with intuition, emotion, and curiosity. The “story” of lighting is challenging because it can be stagnant. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel but we want to create more “movement” because our intentions are for it to feel more poetic and theatrical. And ultimately wenever want Riloh to feel unapproachable so we don’t take ourselves too seriously. But we’re speaking directly to anyone open to discovery and authentic craftsmanship.
RH: What is the importance of materiality at Riloh? Why do you use the materials that you do? What materials would you like to incorporate in future collections?
Melissa: Materiality is extremely important to us because it goes hand in hand with the quality of the product. We want to embrace the naturalness of materials. Our current collections incorporate all brass but we will soon introduce stone and ceramics. We’re interested in how they convey a sense of movement and how the metals will juxtapose with more warm, tactile materials.
RH: What words come to mind when thinking of Riloh’s ethos?
Mellissa: Riloh is focused on designing and making products with intention and in a way that feels true to us. We want to design lighting that continues the conversation of what we find beautiful. Riloh is rooted in function and craftsmanship but we’re also interested in how we can connect our narrative to an object that is part of a person’s everyday life. Lighting can be provoking and intimate and we’re very cognizant with the relationship it has in someone’s space. Riloh has an honest aesthetic.
RH: What is your design approach when thinking of objects that also have to illuminate a space?
Peyton: For me, the inspiration is mostly in the engineering and methods of construction. Creating something that just appears whole and correct, seamless if you will. Those tiny details that you notice, but you don’t really notice. Those are what excites me.
Melissa: It’s a combination of instinct and longevity. Coming from an interior design background, I’m hyper aware of the acquisition of space. I imagine if there were only a few objects in a room, could it hold its own? I collect photos and ideas that influence my thought process but I also take in account the individual and emotional response of how lighting can elevate the space.
I’m a student of design history and I’ve studied what creates longevity in design – those influences directly impact what ideas I think need to be developed more.
RH: What continues to inspire your unique collections? Movies, people, fashion…
Melissa: I think Peyton and I share roots in classical traditions but we’re also deeply interested in modern art, design and architecture.
People also have a huge impact. I live for meeting or reading about exceptional people. They don’t visually influence but rather influence on how I approach what we want to put out in the world.
RH: What about travels…What location has inspired you most?
Peyton: In my travels, I would say I continue to think back on Venice, Italy. This abstract thought of a city dotted in the ocean… Form completely swamping function. When designing products, I tend to look as far through something as I can to try and find the potential for hangups early on. While I am sure the architects and engineers in Venice thought about these things, it is obvious that the end result wasn’t going to be compromised regardless. I love that.
Melissa: I find that my favorite travels are when I feel small. I like when the experience trumps the destination. Whether it’s driving cross country, hiking Machu Picchu or just taking a walk around my city. Observation has a direct correlation with what inspires me no matter where I am.
RH: What’s a recent project that filled you with energy?
Peyton: Contemplation and deconstruction of ideas really energizes me. Take the idea of beauty for instance. Why is something beautiful to my eye? What causes the perception of beauty and why? Am I recognizing beauty or is there something underneath my consciousness that recognizes it. As creatives, we all know beauty when we see it, so is this something that isn’t actually a singular but rather a shared universal. Maybe beauty awakens in all of us when we recognize it outside of us. In that thought, it is energizing to put beauty into the world, regardless of the method. It’s a unique dance that humanity shares with each other and it is timeless.
Melissa: We were recently approached to design a few pieces for a phenomenal property in Los Angeles. Having the freedom to design but to not have stipulations on whether people will purchase it or not is incredibly freeing as a creative.
RH: What’s your most treasured possession?
RH: When thinking about what is next in the world of decorative lightning, what do you dream of bringing to the market? Bigger designs, new materials, finer finishes, line extensions?
Melissa: We’re currently exploring a lot with new materials and bigger designs. The first collections were more about familiar silhouettes and understanding how the relationships of integrated LED’s work with illuminating solid glass. Moving forward, I think people will be excited to see more dramatic pieces that feel unique to Riloh.
RH: We are big on monthly playlists at R HUGHES. What’s your go-to song at the moment?
Peyton: Turnstile’s new album Glow On is perfect from start to finish, but I am especially enjoying their tune “Mystery”.
Melissa: Black Pumas “Colors”