Member of the Month

We are pleased to introduce to our readers the IESNYC Member of the Month, chosen as part of a dedicated team of professionals that represent a cross-section of the lighting industry in New York City. We value their expertise, and thank them for volunteering their time and energy for the betterment of the section.

October 2017

Karen Kuchel, MIES 
Lighting Designer
Kalkota Design

Q: How did you first get started in the lighting industry?
Serendipity! I was a management consultant in Australia and reached the point where I knew it wasn't right for me, but wasn't sure what was. I took an evening drawing class, and then an interior design class, and decided to finally train to be an architect, which was something I'd talked myself out of years before. I decided that I wanted to live and study in NYC, so I applied to schools here such as Parsons. Without realizing, I ticked the box to apply for the dual architecture / lighting degree, and when I received the offer was a bit flabbergasted because I had no idea what it meant to study lighting! When I then looked into it however, it seemed perfect for me, and I realized that I'd included a lamp design in my portfolio, because it was something I'd made just for kicks! And now looking back, I see a lifelong interest in light, which draws together many of my other interests, so it turns out to be the best "mistake" I ever made. My first job was working with Peiheng Tsai at PHT while I was in school and kept working with her for a while after I finished studying. I did a summer internship with CDR Studio Architects, working on an installation of plastic bottles which led to being recommended to work with architect Demetri Sarantitis on a 9/11 memorial in Hoboken, that recently opened. I finally branched out on my own and formed Kalkota Design in 2015. I’ve also been doing some work with Shoshanna Segal of Luminous Flux.

Q: How did you first get involved in the IESNYC?
While attending Parsons for my MFA/March – still a work in progress – I joined the became a student member of the IESNYC. While at Parsons, I volunteered to work on the Lumen Awards which was enormous fun! I later became a member of the IESNYC Emerging Professionals, where I met some really interesting people who were also just starting out.

Q: How do you see your role as member of the IESNYC?
I see it as about being part of a broader lighting community, where I participate in programs and events, but I also like being part of the planning and leadership side of things. I'm currently a member of the Programs Committee, and I enjoy thinking about programs that people might be interested in attending and helping to plan them. Most recently, we hosted “An Evening at the Beekman,” but unfortunately, I was unable to attend, even though I worked on developing the program. It was rewarding to me to walk around at night and see things through different eyes, as part of scouting for locations for the committee. I also exhibited my fabric patterns at the recent Moonlighting 3, a collaboration between the IESNYC, IALD NY, and DLFNY, which is such a wonderful vehicle for seeing what other lighting professionals are creating in their off-hours.

Q: In your opinion, what are the best assets of the IESNYC?
I feel the best assets are the people and their range of interests. Lighting designers tend to work in very small firms, relative to other firms I've worked in, so going to IESNYC programs expands the range of lighting people I meet, and there are so many interesting lighting people to meet in this city! It also means the events are quite varied, so some focus more on design but some are much more technical and scientific, or practice-related. I appreciate being able to learn from other people about different aspects of lighting in that way.