Sunday Culture: 
MONTREAL’S D’ARMES

Alexandre Joncas and Gildas Le Bars set up D’Armes in 2016 and have since carved a reputation for designing unique lighting systems with a modern twist, creating pieces that utilize clear and pure lines and a variety of materials such as natural stone and bronze to create timeless designs. The dynamic duo explains their foray into design, specifically light fixtures, and why they moved their studio from Montreal to the scenic Laurentian forests.

           —By Azamit

D’ARMES Portrait by Jean-Sébastien

 

What are your respective backgrounds?

A: I studied Visual Arts at UQAM, followed by welding. During that time, I worked on several creative collaborations with renowned artists. I was eager and curious to combine art with my manual skills. This resulted in me creating a few lamp prototypes and then joining a Montreal lighting studio for two years.

G: I have always been engaged both socially and politically. I have a degree in Communications, and Team and Project Management; I worked as a production manager in the very same studio where Alexandre was working. We launched D’Armes with the intention of building a tight-knit team and to design objects that ultimately reflect our values and design ethos.

What was the first thing you ever made? Was it a lighting structure?

A: That is right. Gildas and Istarted with a light fixture! It’s no longer part of our catalogue. It was a natural evolution for me; I was already working with light on several projects during my studies. However, we always maintained that we would remain open to creating other objects. In fact, we have created a chair which will soon be released.

 

Hartau Double and Hartau Simple

 

What is the importance of light in your daily rituals and in life?

G: We chose our new workshop/studio because it is fully glass paneled. The lighting of our creative space is very important to us. It brings us energy and can render everything around us magical or ugly.

A: In the morning, I often wear sunglasses while having my breakfast; I have big windows and I refuse to dress them with curtains. I am extremely sensitive and attuned to natural light, entirely hooked and fiercely connected to it. I try to pay homage to it as much as possible in my creations. This is why a luminaire from D’Armes never leaves you indifferent.

What influences your designs?

A: Light, my workshop, the people I work with, and what has already been accomplished, which constantly pushes me to ascertain contradictions. I start from a concept and then I work through the complexities and frustrations that accompany it. And it goes without saying that nature has a powerful sway; I am equally influenced by its beauty and its fragility.

Photo credit: Jean-sebastien

 

And what are your inspirational objects?

A: Paper, pencil, and history books.

What is your material of choice?

G: We don’t actually have any preferred materials. We work with different materials for their quality and durability, and we try to use plastic sparingly. Glass is a favourite of ours ––it’s pure rock! We love working with solid bronze as well; as a durable material it infuses pieces with a long life. They can be re-polished often and still retain their beauty in a hundred years.

What is like to be a design studio in Montreal right now? Do you feel that there is an interesting design sensibility?

G: Montreal has a strong cultural identity based on its diversity. There are many creative talents in the city who work internationally. I find the city is favourable to open-mindedness, but I believe there are many creatives who are not sufficiently aware of the value of their work. We recently moved our studio to the Laurentian Mountains, nestled in a beautiful forest. It enables us to work with Montreal creators while being in the wilderness.

A: I agree that Montreal has a strong creative identity, but even though it was designated UNESCO City of Design (2006), I lament the lack of a real support system for its creators.

 

Photo credit: Jean-sebastien

 

What is your secret spot in Montreal, the space that indelibly left a mark on you?

The abandoned building underneath the off-ramp of the Jacques-Cartier Bridge.

And in the Laurentians?

The former Canadian military base in St-Adolphe-d’Howard, a vestige of the Cold War.

Photo credit: Jean-sebastien

D’ARMES.CA

 

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Written on: September 6, 2020