Mad about moonshine

As someone who works in sustainable fashion, one of the essential things on my agenda is helping people outside the industry see the marriage between conscious living and aesthetics. There’s a world out there of very creative people with a great eye who have embarked on sustainable projects, using organically grown or recycled materials as their base to make excellent, useful, and beautiful things. These days, there is more of a demand for sustainably produced products, but there is also a growing range of aesthetically pleasing items made with the future of our world in mind. Lately, I’ve been on a mission to find home brands that fit this bill, and few have astonished me quite like the Moonshine Lamp Co.

A California-based company, Moonshine creates beautiful installation lights. From the very beginning, sustainability was an essential part of the brands identity – it just operated without using the jargon. In fact, the entire concept was born from a weekend handyman project of repurposing old bottles into lamps. After seeing the business potential in his idea, founder Rob Lewbel turned his weekend project into a company which years later has become a profitable and sought-after brand in Southern California. In the beginning, back in 2012, Rob would drive around the city to find bottles, stopping at dumpsters; now, he tips bartenders and busboys at local restaurants so that they will save the venues bottles for him. Nearly a decade after that first foraging weekend, many of Moonshine’s pieces are made of reclaimed glass and bottles, with details of copper and wood harvested from downed trees. For the details made from wood, the brand also partners with local wood companies that source wood from sustainably managed local forests. Each of the Moonshine lamps is handcrafted and made in the company’s studio workshop in Claremont, CA, to the specs given by each specific customer. While they have a set of fixtures on the site, the fact that Moonshine is a smaller operation leads to a far more flexible creation process. As such, it’s easy to combine details from different lamp models to create a customised experience that works best with your tastes and spaces. 

The lamps are beautiful, rustic, and modern, with a comprehensive set of options available. These are modern pieces made from sustainable materials (reclaimed and recycled), based primarily on bottles, wood, and copper details. The look ends up being almost steampunk in nature, yet streamlined and pleasant to the eye. Depending on what you’re looking for, Moonshine lamps can function as either statement pieces or as part of bigger and more subdued decor. Flexibility is a big part of the Moonshine experience, and they’re open to starting a dialogue with their clients to create the perfect lighting solution for each space. The details of each lamp they offer can be easily transported to other models, combining existing elements or figuring out new ones to best match the client’s expectations.

Some of Moonshine’s candle lamps use recycled glass from wine and liquor bottles, often painted over to create different effects. The company offers a catalog of bottles and colours to choose from for lamps, and they’re also open to receiving bottles for specific installations, such as special occasions or events. Some of the more striking “standard” options include whiskey and tequila bottles, mason jars, and skull-shaped lamps. You can play with the type of lighting you want, as the different-coloured bottles can easily help you create specific moods for whatever space you’re decorating. Whether you’re looking for fun and bright or dark and moody, this approach to lighting can elevate the concept.

On the Moonshine website, you can find the lamp options divided into five generic types: wall sconces, pendants, standing lamps, candle lamps, and centerpieces. While these are readily available, it’s very easy to reach out to Rob for a highly customised experience, requesting specific types of lighting and bottles. This kind of personalised touch is always one of the best things about buying from smaller and local businesses. Whilst they’re based in California and work with several providers within the state, Moonshine have also done work in other states, like the Generator Hostel & Hotel in Florida, or even internationally. Moonshine’s attention to detail and fantastic service allows for the creation of a presence well beyond their physical location, but I was glad to find them directly within my area.

Designing with Rob was such an enjoyable experience, throughout the entire process, particularly as he was very receptive to my input and request to focus on eco-materials. As a plus, Rob had extensive knowledge of local brands specialising in the design elements I required; in fact, in general, Moonshine has the policy of accommodating the needs of their most conscious clients. I was thrilled with the beautiful lights in the end, but most of all, I loved how involved Rob was throughout the process, providing truly customised service and staying in contact with me through email every step of the way.

He talked to me about the California-based arborists who take up wood from damaged or dead trees, minimising the negative impact on forests. It was a real joy to be part of the creative process in this manner,  but to learn and be educated along the way. Rob’s passion for his craft is impossible to ignore. During our correspondence, he went above and beyond simply keeping me informed on the following steps. He was thorough and educational when telling me about his drive towards a more sustainable business, referring me to companies that focused on a greener perspective. Generally speaking, I try to take some time when meeting with creators to be forthcoming about my stand on conscious living, and it’s always a joy to find like-minded souls who are doing everything in their power to create a more sustainable world. Happily, Rob is one of these people, and it was great to share ideas and thoughts on an even more sustainable brand going forward. Generally speaking, Rob is deeply involved in all stages of his company’s processes, from design to manufacture, installation, and even communicating with clients. That’s always one of my favourite experiences of buying from small companies and entrepreneurs: the lack of middlemen. When it comes to Moonshine, you’re also quite aware that you’re in excellent hands, and committed ones at that.

Rob has been certified as a lighting expert for over 20 years, with a background in the Southern California film industry. For years, he was involved in lighting many small and large-scale movies, which in turn functioned as almost guerrilla training: movie sets are often a technical challenge against budget and mishaps. In making the best out of available resources, an interest in creating more sustainable solutions for lighting spaces was born. As a plus, the film industry is also heavily reliant on aesthetics, from using just the right lighting to convey a mood to setting up the perfect décor for a specific scene. Over his years working in movies, and then later decorating homes and businesses, Rob has developed a truly astounding sense of aesthetics, with a real understanding of how to light up spaces in the most harmonious way, creating just the specific kind of mood required.

Though Moonshine create sustainable lighting solutions, they also perform services for businesses and even events like weddings or galas – you can also hire them to build centerpieces for parties, fundraisers, and the like. On their website, you can find a portfolio of sorts, where you can see a few examples of their custom-made lamps in the places where they hang now. You can get a glimpse of the effect their pieces have on businesses and private residences, and it’s easy to see how they light up any room – literally and figuratively. 

There’s no need to abandon love for interior design when choosing to furnish sustainably. Moonshine is just one of many brands out there that combine beautiful items with a more conscious approach to crafting. With so much waste in our cities, there are endless chances for creative people with a mindful approach to build from what we would call trash. Finding brands that combine finely-tuned aesthetics with a sense of responsibility is one of my favourite things in life – and there’s an increasing number of them every year!

Visit Moonshine and fall in love. Also, have a read of my interview with founder Rob Lewbel here.

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