With a background in architecture and construction project management, Hugh Altschwager merged his passion for design to form Inkster Maken in 2013.
Hugh Altschwager chose his company’s name Inkster Maken, to reflect his personal Scandinavian heritage, as well as the aesthetic of his products. “Inkster was my mother’s maiden name, which can be traced back to Vikings in the Shetland Islands, and Maken is a Nordic word meaning ‘to make’.” Recently included in Belle magazine’s list of twenty-four designers named ‘the new generation of Australian creatives’, Altschwager is gaining growing recognition for his handcrafted limestone light-fittings and lamps.
“I started producing products for sale in early 2013 but it took about 18 months of trial and error before that to refine the process of working with limestone”, says Altschwager. He chose limestone as his primary medium because, “I like the idea of using naturally occurring materials that require minimal processing to reach the final product form.” As well as using a less energy-intensive production process, Altschwager was drawn to limestone because, “I feel it gives the final product a greater sense of tactility and engagement with the end user.”
Altschwager studied architecture and project management at university, and then worked in construction management for five years. During that time, and throughout his life since childhood, he has spent time designing, making and building objects.
When Altschwager began making his lamps in 2011 he dove into unchartered territory and developed his own method of working with limestone, “completely… from scratch by trial and error.” “I knew the material would be a beautiful product for lighting, but had to develop a way to manufacture. I adapted traditional wood turning techniques and with much trial and error eventually developed a process to ensure consistency and a beautiful finish to the stone.”
Hugh has been recognised for his innovative style and technique since beginning production in 2013, and has been shortlisted for and won several design competitions, including an invitation to exhibit at the London Design Festival in 2013. His work has been featured in numerous publications including Vogue, Real Living, Sunday Style, Daily Imprint and The Block Magazine.
Altschwager is drawn to the simplicity of Scandinavian design, and what he describes as the “simple, clean balanced forms in terms of materials, proportions, tones and colours.” He is currently the sole designer and craftsman behind his business, and works at his Melbourne-based studio using locally sourced materials.
Altschwager’s favourite part of the design process is, “in the final stages when I can see the completed product coming together, when it takes on the appearance of how it will look when it is installed in its intended location.” He says he takes particular pleasure from being able to see his lamps installed in public spaces.
In the future, Altschwager is excited to, “collaborate with other more established brands and work on one-off larger scale ideas and events.” In keeping with his personal history of handcrafting, “I’d like to keep exploring the idea of using natural materials or traditional methods that may have gone by the wayside over the years.”
To see Hugh in action, view his collaboration with video pitching platform Pitchi here.