Fire and steel |The Hubbardton Forge story
MAKER OF ONE-OF-A-KIND LIGHTING STARTED IN A BARN AND EMPLOYS 225 PEOPLE IN CASTLETON ~ JEANNE-MARIE GAND
Founded in a Hubbardton barn in 1974 by two University of Vermont graduates who embarked in an artistic, entrepreneurial adventure, Hubbardton Forge relocated in 1988 just down the road to its “forever” home in nearby Castleton.
Linda Doran, who was one the company’s first four employees and remains a valuable team member, said: “By 1993, we had grown to 35 employees,” and the rest is history.
Today, Hubbardton Forge employs more than 220 full-time designers, artisans, engineers and staff where the time-honored principles of forging are combined with the best applications of modern technologies and innovative design.
In an age when companies are increasingly moving their manufacturing and service offshore, lighting manufacturer Hubbardton Forge is committed to designing, manufacturing and serving its customers from under one roof in Castleton.
CEO Bob Dillon said: “We feel manufacturing domestically allows a level of responsiveness to customers we couldn’t otherwise provide, enables partnerships between departments creating a better workplace, keeps well-paying jobs in the USA and helps to strengthen our local economy. We continue to grow as a domestic manufacturer in a climate where the majority of our competition is using overseas production.”
Hubbardton Forge manages resources and strives to offer better and faster custom capabilities than manufacturersoverseas. The Forge has the ability to build exactly what customers want and when they want it. Most important, the quality control is uncompromising, thanks to the fact that all products are designed and manufactured, from concept through to final piece, all in one place, on-site in Vermont.
Designers come from diverse backgrounds in architecture, engineering and even jewelry design. They possess a wealth of knowledge and a deep respect for all art forms. They work individually and as a team, brainstorming, sketching, meeting and critiquing, often pushing themselves and each other to create designs that celebrate form, materials and artistry that can only be achieved through handcrafted design.
Working closely with prototyping, engineering and manufacturing, our designers see their sketches and maquettes come to life. The designers are inspired by the organic nature of the materials: the warmth and character of the finished metal is showcased in the lighting. We understand that consumers are bringing art and design into their homes or workplaces when they invest in Hubbardton Forge lighting.
“Our primary muse is the steel we forge. We are always experimenting with what can be done next with steel and other metals.”
— David Kitts, design director
Hubbardton Forge, today
In an age of mass-produced, machine-made products, many companies have abandoned the right way of doing things in favor of maximizing profits. We believe doing things the right way is the only way to do business. We make products where the craftsmanship and skill clearly shows. Any piece leaving our forge is touched by multiple hands throughout the process of its creation. When you look at a Hubbardton Forge lighting fixture, you’re seeing the artistic achievements of a team dedicated to design. Our family of artisans combines traditional craft knowledge with modern techniques and one-of-a-kind tools we’ve created to give you a piece of Vermont history that holds enduring value.
We still do tradition-held forging of steel in the heat of nearly 2000-degree heat, and bend and shape these red-hot pieces of metal. We also have developed techniques to bend and shape other metals and materials allowing us to broaden our aesthetic and develop beautiful lighting fixtures for styles ranging from traditional to transitional to contemporary. We work with a local partner, AO Glass in Burlington.
This collaboration, creating unique hand-blown glass for a collection of lighting fixtures, has allowed us to bring fast, innovative solutions to our customers, with the shared goal of turning everyday objects into art. We also work with LEDdynamics in Randolph to develop lighting solutions that complement the fixture’s sculptural form, while providing the necessary lighting for a space.
Hubbardton Forge was recently honored in New York City as a finalist for the prestigious 2015 Best of Year Awards by Interior Design magazine for the innovative design of the Cityscape LED Pendant. Polished aluminum rods that imitate building outlines pass through a luminous edge-lit LED panel to “reflect” on the other side.
One of the more contemporary pieces, the Cityscape is true to Hubbardton Forge’s design philosophy of simple elegance. “Since I started designing for the Forge, I’ve always wanted to design a piece where the metal glowed,” said to David Kitts, design director. The continuous exploration of both understanding and pushing the limits of form and materials inspires Hubbardton Forge to create industry-leading designs that beautifully meld the artistry and functionality of lighting.
For over 40 years, Hubbardton Forge has been committed to saving energy, preventing waste and reducing its environmental footprint. As a company, we consider environmental impact at every level of our decision-making process. We have pioneered and adopted many eco-friendly initiatives, and have been honored five times with the Vermont Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence in Pollution Prevention in recognition of these efforts.
From past to present
By building on traditional techniques while focusing on fine design, Hubbardton Forge has become one of the most respected brands in the lighting industry. Our award-winning team of designers takes inspiration from everywhere — the natural world, sculptures, architecture and their own innate sense of form and function.
A welder working on a project at Hubbardton Forge.
(Photo: Courtesy Hubbardton Forge)
Whatever the seed of the idea is — once it’s sketched on paper or computer, or shaped from paper, foam or some other choice material, our engineering and forge teams translate it into a sculpture of metal. It’s this environment of collaboration and the ability to rise to a design challenge that sets our people and our work apart from other luxury lighting manufacturers. We don’t take shortcuts – we take the path that produces products we’re proud to stand behind.
Jeanne-Marie Gand is vice president of marketing at Hubbardton Forge.
by Burlington Free Press