Your Interview Karoliina Helin
Introduce yourself (name, company, position, country) and tell us how you got into lighting design (including education/qualifications).
Hello, it is Karoliina here! I work as an independent lighting designer with a company name KHelinWorks, and design lighting to all kinds of projects around the world. A lot of my time is spent as a freelance architectural lighting designer for Satore Studio in the UK. Physically I am based in Finland.
Like a lot of other people, I have accidentally found myself working in lighting. I graduated in 2016 with BA (Hons) in Interior Architecture from the University of the West of England, in Bristol. Straight after I started as a junior lighting designer in a Bristolian lighting design company Re:light ltd. Majority of my knowledge in lighting comes through experience at work but I have also completed the LIA Certificate in 2017.
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?
I enjoy the large variety of projects I get to do, ranging from small residentials to huge commercial buildings and theatres, as that widens my knowledge and expertise. In the end my favourites are the projects where the lighting makes a difference in the everyday lives of normal people. So, in other words, community-based projects. Small and medium sized hospitality and commercial spaces. Homes. I want to make the lighting work for the people in the space and affect the way people feel in it. Ideally, instead of people not noticing the lighting, they will think how well it has been done.
What project are you most proud of and why?
I am in a way proud of all of them. There are projects that are small and quick, or large and slow. On the “easier” side of management where you can pinpoint the problem and work your way through it on a clear method. Then there are the large but fast projects where you are just gasping for air while trying to juggle way too many aspects at the same time, and yet, somehow, you still find yourself as a winner in the end. You got it done, and you got it done well. Or the small and slow ones, which sometimes end up being the most meaningful ones. The project might not be financially most lucrative, but it makes a real difference in someone’s life to have proper lighting around. And all the projects in between.
What is the biggest challenge that you have overcome in your career?
It must be the change of country. My career in lighting has from the beginning been very UK based, but during 2020, it just happened that life changed, and I found myself wanting to move back to Finland, permanently. One of the biggest questions of the move was, surprisingly, how to keep working with light. The thought of not necessarily being able to find a job in the field of lighting was terrifying! As I love what I do, having to either give it up, or start from the very beginning again on the career ladder, was not that appealing. But time has revealed that, indeed, light is a universal topic!
How does light inspire you?
Light is a very atmospheric element. The way it changes the space (and nature) is fascinating – even the dullest space can be made interesting and exciting with the right sort of light. At the same time even the most glamorous space can become weary looking if your lighting is wrong. Lighting has two sides – the natural, which we humans can’t really manipulate as it does what it wants and when it wants. The other side of it is of course the artificial, which is full of technical cleverness and logic. I find both equally intriguing – how does nature apply light around and how to make that same thing happen with a set of wires and some chemical reactions.
What is your message for other Women In Lighting?
Put yourself into the rooms where things happen, open your mouth, and voice your opinions, as that is the best way to get them heard. Stop thinking about how others see you, your concern should be how you see yourself. As a lighting designer, you, literally, are the one who enables other people to see things. So do not sit quietly in the shadows, if you don’t want to.
“Stop thinking about how others see you, your concern should be how you see yourself. As a lighting designer, you, literally, are the one who enables other people to see things. So do not sit quietly in the shadows, if you don’t want to.”