Robert is a self-taught lamp fabrication artist who lives and works in the Seattle metro area. By day, he is employed in the field of critical facility operations using his background in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) and electrical systems. When not working for one of the local tech giants, Robert spends time in his shop working with various kinds of vintage industrial components to produce electrified lighting creations that evoke a whimsical and playful reaction in those who view them.
From an early age Robert had an appreciation for lighting and three-dimensional art. Never satisfied with building models from a kit, Robert preferred finding what he could in his dad’s garage and putting together his own creations. Sci-fi movies about fantastical spaceships and futuristic energy weapons fed his imagination. From spaceships made of balsa wood to ray guns made from old saw handles and pipe, Robert enjoyed the freedom to create his own version of the things that interested him. One day, in a local lighting store with his father, he noticed how the lamps and chandeliers in the showroom created a fantastical world of lights and shapes.
In trade schools, Robert acquired a steam and refrigeration license as well as an electrician’s license. With a focus on electrical and plumbing installations used in the HVAC trade, he embarked on a career of facility engineering, which allowed him to utilize his creative energy to design symmetrical pipe installations that served practical purposes.
During this time, Robert worked a part time job at a local lamp repair shop, where he rewired old lamps and chandeliers, and learned to restore them to look like new. He turned customers’ treasured old vases into lamps and began to envision ways to mix his love of lighting with his love of creating three dimensional objects.
The genre of “Steampunk” captured his interest. The combination of modern-day conveniences mixed with the illusion of 19th century technology to accomplish functionality was a perfect platform to express his new art form. Putting his love of lighting together with his experience with HVAC and electrical, and adding the Steampunk effect, Robert now had the ability to let his imagination go crazy. And so started his lamp creations.
His first lamp was comprised of an old compressor end bell, a vintage fire extinguisher found at a swap meet, and some black iron pipe. The result was a pleasing creation of iron and brass with switches disguised as valves and two Edison-style lamps. This was the confirmation he needed to begin his new journey as a creative lighting artist.
Robert scours antique malls to find pieces that inspire his imagination. When he finds the right object for the focal point, he builds a lamp around it. Old brass fire extinguishers or vintage dental equipment are brought back to life to star in a new story that the viewer can interact with. Turning on old style switches or turning a valve handle will activate the piece with fun yet practical lighting.
Just as his work in facility engineering has evolved, and led him into the field of thermal energy, Robert’s artistic nature is now expressed in creating Robert Hilton Illuminations, functional lamps with steampunk overtones – works of art that serve as conversation pieces in any home or office.