Max Leishman


Words: Manuela Millan
Photos: Stuart Crosset
STYLING: Bek Sheppard

It was a delight to do a Q&A with the hilarious and talented Max Leishman about his futuristic and sleek Scintilla lighting range. Featuring pendant lights and modular pieces this range is strong and sculptural and we’re sure you will enjoy reading more about Max and his work.

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MM: When did you start designing lights?

ML: Lighting design for me started back in 2015 whilst studying Industrial Design. I had always favoured furniture projects so when the option was to design a light or furniture piece for a studio project, I changed it up and haven’t looked back since. The funny thing is the lighting design that came out of that studio is the one I’m launching as the Scintilla Collection. Should shout out to Adam & Dale of Dowel Jones who ran that studio where I designed it. Cool dudes with amazing knowledge.

MM: What’s your favourite part of being a designer?

ML: Its cliché, but the journey that it takes you on, seeing a project come together over a weekend or over many years is very satisfying. Working with other professionals who are experts in their field is a very cool experience, having them expose you to how they interpret a problem and showing their skills and capabilities is bloody awesome. It becomes a big catalyst for ideas and future projects.

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MM: What has been the hardest part of designing your current range?

ML: The aesthetic of the light is very sleek and minimal, so every other aspect of the light needs to reflect this driving feature. I’m still refining connection parts so the lights can come together as a set of 4 and 8. All the hardware, components and joins must finish flush otherwise the design is not cohesive. I haven’t given myself much material to work with either which has become quite a big headache. I definitely chose form over function! But we’ll get there.

MM: Can you define your style?

ML: My focus is strong but sculptural. I like to design things that look like they have purpose, I’m not sure why my aesthetic is the way it is though, it maybe from making endless fighter jet hobby kit planes as a kid where I was so focused on the planes lines and how I could paint them up to accentuate their sharp features, I’m not sure.

MM: You have a great collection right now, how do you come up with the inspiration for the aesthetics? Do you have a process you follow every time you design?

ML: These aircraft models that I’d put together all the time would really get me lost in that space of flight and high-tech design. For some reason I tend to gravitate towards this in where I get my inspiration from. The Scintilla Collection came from watching Tron- Legacy and Star wars back to back at 3am. It sounds funny, I read a lot of designers get their inspiration from playing with this and that material, which I also do to, but for this Lighting collection it was a late depressive night, I had no ideas and my concept presentation was that morning at 9am. I needed to escape from my desk as I was sketching into oblivion. So exposing myself to designers like Syd Mead, Daniel Simon as well as a couple futuristic movies was what I needed, and I think the lights themselves definitely reflect that headspace I was in at the time.

In terms of process, it’s a mish-mash between scribbling, model-making, computer modelling and most of all discussion. Sometimes when you’re stuck by yourself on an idea its best to have someone else look at it to get feedback, what you may think works or looks good isn’t always the case.

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MM: What can't you live without?

ML: Usually I’d say my Motorcycle, but I sold it and managing to live without it, don’t know how though! Ha, but now I’d say my gym membership. I do have a love addiction with the weight room.

MM: Who/What are you most influenced by?

ML: I’m mostly influenced by other people around me, its cliché but you are the company you keep I have a lot of friends that are really pushing it in their preferred areas of life which keeps me inspired and on my toes! Also other designers and what they’ve managed to design or build over a long journey. I like to back track how they got there and then take a similar direction.

MM: What was your childhood like? Did you grow up in a creative household?

ML: I grew up in St.Kilda and Elwood only ever focusing on playing football. Secondary to that was scribbling, design and making so absolutely, art and design run deep in my family with almost all of us in a creative industry or at least have serious hobbies to create in our spare time. I can thank my dad’s side of the family for that. If any of us weren’t doing something creative you could almost argue if they are really part of the family!

MM: What is the first thing you do in the morning?

ML: My days start at 6am, I eat my pre-made bircher muesli I prep the night before, then if my dog Pippa has managed to muscle the sliding door to enter the living room she then launches at me for a pat and my bircher! She’s a Labrador, almost as good as having a Dyson vacuum in the house.

MM: Can you recommend a good read / good playlist?

ML: I’m heavily into my house and techno music, I don’t have a playlist; I mostly listen to DJ sets. Fuse London on Soundcloud is where it’s at! ‘Fuse Podcast 029 – Okain’ is my favourite at the moment. If you skip to the 35minute mark that’s where the magic happens for me.

MM: Can you recommend a coffee place and a restaurant in Melbourne?

ML: I live in the centre of the CBD in Melbourne, so I’m spoilt for choice. But for Coffee it’s The Little Mule on Somerset Place that hits the spot! As for a restaurant I’m not your wine and dine sort of guy, but  Pastuso down ACDC Lane was killa last time I was there a few years ago! ahaha.

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The aesthetic of the light is very sleek and minimal, so every other aspect needs to reflect this driving feature.
— Max Leishman