An interview with founders Judit Zoltai and János Héder.
Hungarian brand Manooi Light Creations stands for two main principles: a passion for light, and a labour of love. Founded by Judit Zoltai and János Héder, the designer couple manage the business together, overseeing a workshop prides itself on creativity, innovation and craftsmanship. Using only raw materials, including Swarovski crystals, its lighting designs are always handmade and true works of art.
1. What inspired you to start the company in the first place?
Judit: We both graduated from the Hungarian University of Applied Arts and have been making lighting objects and lamps since we were children. Manooi is a similar game of inspiration for us as adults; it’s a place where we can use our creativity and create completely new shapes and chandeliers. It’s all about making our environment better and determining the images of our future.
We were both born in Budapest, so Manooi is a European company registered in Hungary, but in terms of its market and partnership it’s an international brand. We present our collections at international exhibitions and our products can be found almost all over the world.
2. What did you do before you started Manooi?
Judit: I graduated as a porcelain major. The technology of processing glass, ceramic and porcelain materials have always attracted me. Before Manooi, I designed and made glass and porcelain lamps for individuals, office buildings, and restaurants.
Janos: I always felt I should do something creative. At the age of 18 I decided to study architecture. But it was too solid for me, too technical, and had nothing to do with creation. I realized this was’nt what I wanted to do so I went to the Hungarian University of Art and Design where I graduated as an interior designer.
Judit: In 2005, a crystal chandelier of ours was exhibited at the stand of a company called Mobilia Artica at the EuroShop in Düsseldorf, where it attracted great interest. Thanks to this success, we established Manooi, which is exclusively engaged in the design, manufacture and sale of luminaires. Our very first model was named Artica, a fixture which is still in high demand today.
3. János, as the lead designer at Manooi, where do you find inspiration for each new chandelier or light installation?
János: When I was young, I wanted to be an astronomer – the infinity of the universe gave me infinite inspiration. I lived for years in Algeria, where the purity of the desert sky is indescribably beautiful. The impact of this duality can still be found in the design of Manooi, inspired by several of our models. To offer a couple of examples: our Ciel model (sky), depicts the glow of the stars on particularly clear desert nights, while the Wissh chandelier is about making a secret wish upon a star.
Becoming a designer was not something I was born with, but my observations of the world around me led to an evolution in my thinking. All of our creations are inspired by natural light. We seek to design radically modern, innovative shapes, whose radiance demands that they be focal points in a given space.
János: Creating on my own is a different journey compared to working in collaboration. Each Manooi chandelier is the fruit of an intensive creative process by our team of designers, who seek to bring beauty and luminance to the world. Every piece is chosen and manufactured with close attention to detail in our workshop, which means that each and every chandelier is an exclusive work of art.
5. What would you say are Manooi signatures?
Judit: Our Artica crystal piece serves as a Manooi certificate. It validates our chandeliers, and we put it on every design where it fits the style and form. We also have signature shapes, which over time have become recognizable around the world – just like Artica, our first.
In terms of quality and design, we strive for perfection and pay attention to the smallest details so that our products are unique. We don’t bargain, and our team works with a full commitment every day to create something special. Our company is founded on a goal to create lasting artistic value.
6. Judit, what is your role in the company and how has this evolved over the years?
Judit: We both came from a design background, but a company requires a lot of resources and expertise in other areas as well, so I am continuously delving into new aspects of the business. According to my official job description, I’m the chief executive, but of course we decide cardinal issues together, both in planning and future directions.
As a designer, it’s my responsibility to create a more harmonious and high-quality world with our products. Essentially, my job is to keep things running smoothly, to achieve our goals, for our colleagues to enjoy their work, and to continuously develop Manooi internationally.
We’re also a couple and have three children, so I have another role to run our family home.
7. What else have you created together at Manooi?
Judit: We really like to fulfil special requests. This is how the Milky Way Crystal Cow was created in cooperation with Swarovski, a piece of art which was sold at a charity auction and benefitted sick children. It had travelled to several countries representing the Manooi and Swarovski collaboration.
We’re also proud to have created Manooi’s co-brand, Inarchi, as a modern, architectural lamp design company, which has achieved great success in international professional circles.
In addition, we introduce a new collection every year – a ritual, which we plan to take in a whole new direction this year. We innovate with very exciting materials and techniques, and this is what continually inspires us to create new and completely unique designs.
8. Does colour play a role in your creations?
Judit: Our coloured crystal chandeliers are becoming more and more popular. We work with more than 40 different colours of crystals, and so far, Manooi chandeliers have been made with more than 200 colour combinations.
Jànos: Our most used crystal shape is the octagon crystal. Per lamp, we use up to thousands of these crystals to create a richly textured surface, a wealth of detail that has now become a trademark of Manooi. For example, our Burj model has a longer set of crystal chains than the Champs-Élysées. When decorating, we choose different crystal pendant variations to suit the basic shape.
Personally, I’m always looking forward to the innovations of the Swarovski crystal each and every time, and when I pick up the presentation palette, I admire the glittering shapes as if I were a child discovering the contents of a box full of surprises.
10. How do you decide which Swarovski crystals to use in a particular design?
Jànos: When choosing a crystal, shape is the decisive factor, depending on whether the goal is to create larger surfaces or more filigree shapes. While Swarovski Crystal Beads are used for our Halo and Wissh crystal chandeliers, “rectangular” crystals are used for Manooi’s Hanabi model.
Most of our crystal chandeliers are made up of octagons. The choice of colour is definitely determined by the customer’s needs, but if the choice is left to us, we will ask for the interior design plans and our 3D modellers will suggest the most appropriate format and colour for the given interior.
Judit: The Artica chandelier has become an iconic symbol of the Manooi brand since Manooi was founded and has also become the company’s logo. The main motivation was to create a crystal for this spirituality that reflects the uniqueness and authenticity of Manooi.
Swarovski has been Manooi’s conceptual partner from the outset, inspiring our designers with the brilliance of its crystal, so we then approached Swarovski with the idea of making a bespoke, Artica-shaped crystal. János would design the shape and Swarovski’s skilled technicians would create it. The resulting Artica cut would embody the synergy between the two companies—a unique partnership.
12. How have you used this crystal cut in the years since?
Judit: The Artica crystal decorates each of Manooi’s pieces to provide proof of authenticity. As a tribute to enduring partnerships and to a brilliant artistic vision, it’s the ideal embodiment of the philosophical foundations of the brand. The Artica crystal acts as a kind of certificate of authenticity. We also use the Artica crystal as jewelry, pieces of which we give as a gift to our very special partners.