Your Interview Helen Loomes
Introduce yourself (name, company, position, country) and tell us how you got into lighting design (including education/qualifications).
My name is Helen Loomes and I currently work for TRILUX Lighting. I have worked here for 14 years in a variety of jobs but most of them focussed on Marketing and Education, teaching others both inside the organisation and externally. As a director of the UK company a lot of my time was spent trying to look at the bigger picture and I have developed a passion for the quality of light we receive and making our sector of industry more sustainable. In my final year before retirement, I now work closer with the TRILUX Group on a strategic level and spend the other 50% of my time running the Akademie. I am really enjoying this more specialised role to concentrate on education and participate in the wider lighting community especially with the Society of Light and Lighting, where I am a Fellow and Vice-president.
I started in lighting after seeing a job advert in the local paper for a laboratory assistant at Holophane, with them I went on day release to Southbank Polytechnic to study City and Guilds in Illuminating Engineering and Lighting Technology. I was very lucky to have some extraordinary lecturers, David Loe, John Frost and John Pickup who became the ‘luminaries’ of the lighting industry. It would be nice to think that students of the future might have equally inspiring female lecturers. I also joined the Illuminating Engineering Society as student member in 1974!! – the forerunner of the SLL.
Tell us about your work – is there a specific type of project you like to work on or an area you specialise in and why?
Although I always loved lighting and the design aspect of it, financial necessity pushed me into sales. There was some design involved, as in those days all sales engineers had to produce their own schemes, but it was usually a supermarket or carpark somewhere. Eventually I moved over to marketing and even set up my own PR and recruitment agency ‘Blueridge Consultancy’. This led to some public speaking and I found I could pass on my enthusiasm for light. It was being involved in events like the SLL Masterclasses that brought my attention to lighting topics such as Circadian Lighting and started my journey into the biological sphere of light, which I have found fascinating.
What project are you most proud of and why?
The most exciting project I worked on was when I was working with Erco and had the opportunity to collaborate with 3 sculptors for their exhibition at the Royal British Society of Sculptors. It was more than designing the lighting, I even took my family there at the weekend to paint the walls black!!
What is the biggest challenge that you have overcome in your career?
I’m sorry to say it is a challenge that many men would not have to address. I was a single working mother and juggling childcare with a job that sometimes took me abroad was always complicated. My daughter saw Germany as this place that took me away from her – I would describe how soft the pillows are there, which she had to confirm for herself when she got older!
How does light inspire you?
I am still in awe of the beautiful effects of light. It moves me in an almost physical way, but having an enquiring mind I need to know how it works; what creates that reaction?
What is your message for other Women In Lighting?
From the early days when there were very few women in lighting it seemed that elderly men knew everything, but that was the perception of a very young girl learning about the world. Times have changed and young women are more self-assured, have ambition and are certainly meeting all challenges that are thrown at them. It is great that we have so many women in this fascinating combination of art and science and many that have reached the top of our profession. There is nothing to stop women today except for that niggling voice casting doubt and we, ourselves, have control over that. Confidence can grow slowly, with small successes, the support of colleagues and the knowledge that other women have achieved so much. Be bold, be curious, a little bit stubborn and be proud to work in a great industry.
Educator, Event Organiser, Researcher, Management
“It is great that we have so many women in this fascinating combination of art and science and have reached the top of our profession. Be bold, be curious, a little bit stubborn and be proud to work in a great industry.”