In our new series, the Materials Report, we’re doing a deep dive into the different materials we’ve been using lately at Hudson Valley Lighting.

You know it when you see it: the smooth white material used to create statues, carvings, and items that enhance a room's décor. It’s alabaster, a mineral that has gone from being used for windows in Gothic cathedrals to the ideal diffuser of some of our fixtures, and many places in between.

Spanish Alabaster windows at Church of Santa Maria la Mayor of Morella, Spain | Photo by Etan J. Tal - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Our Skylar sconce in its testing and developing phase, showing the visual impact of LED illumination diffusing through Spanish alabaster 

The picture above of the Church of Santa Maria la Mayor of Morella shows how this amazing stone was used to let light in and impress the viewer with a religious feeling. Taking note, we created some pieces where light shines through Spanish alabaster, mixing ancient materials with modern design and today's technology. 

Spanish alabaster has long been considered an ideal substance for sculpture. Used in religious statuary and by wealthy families of Renaissance Spain, the material is richly veined and pleasantly porous. Put to work in artistic creations from antediluvian civilizations such as Ancient Egypt, it began to be appreciated for sculptural works once again in the 13th century.  But it was during the artistic blossoming of the Renaissance that it became a basic raw material for altar-pieces and sculptures of all kinds. Classic alabaster sculptures tend to have a more Gothic vibe to them, like the Three Maries below.

Three Maries, alabaster sculpture by Master of the Rimini Crucifixion (c. 1430), National Museum, Warsaw.

One way to elevate an interior is to bring in an unexpected material, especially one that has a far-reaching history of artistic associations. As demonstrated above, alabaster is translucent enough to be used for small windows when cut in sheets. Not only used in ancient sacred spaces in places like the Byzantine Empire and Italy, this technique has also been used in modern times, such as in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, which was dedicated in 2002 by the Los Angeles, California Archdiocese. Could we bring this beautiful material from a deifying sphere to a domestic one?

Realizing that if this natural material was ideal for illuminating natural light in churches, it would probably make a terrific diffuser for lighting fixtures, we took note and created our Lynden family. Our Lynden suspends an alabaster diffuser in a disc of Art Deco decadence, complemented by matching canopy. The great shot above from Marion Studio Interior Design shows Lynden from underneath and all of the intricate details of the alabaster. The one below shows it lit up and complementing a contemporary space well on HGTV's hit show, Property Brothers: Buying + Selling.

Our Lyden chandelier in Aged Brass featured on HGTV's Property Brothers: Buying + Selling 

Each piece of alabaster is unique, the result of geological processes slowly occurring over eons of time. This unique quality means the material, set in a visually interesting design, works well in similarly unique spaces. Alabaster blends in seamlessly with light and airy color palettes but also acts as a neutral complement in brighter rooms.

To some people, the bathroom has become a sort of sacred space, the last frontier for silence, reflection, and self-care. Considered this way, alabaster's transition from the cathedrals of old to the baths of today makes sense. Thinking this, we created two new families that use our hand-hewn Spanish alabaster harvested from the quarries of Aragon. Our Valencia and Skylar sconces are not limited to this space but they do make a perfect addition there due to their shapes and the way they can be mounted vertically or horizontally. In addition, they're energy-efficient (the wonderfully light-diffusive material concealing a powerful LED board) and ADA-compliant (making them a good choice for contract and hospitality projects and bathrooms that are a little tight, as well). Whether you're preparing yourself for the day ahead or starting your nightly relaxation routine, these alabaster beauties provide excellent color rendering and warm light in a visually exciting form that has a sense of presence.

Continuing this notion of the spa-like bathroom (emphasis on "bath") as an extension of a sacred space, alabaster has properties sure to enhance the home bath created with lofty intentions. For those who believe in such things, alabaster is referred to as the “drawing stone,” believed to be able to draw energy towards or away from you. It's said to help ease anxiety and promote mental clarity. Set low from a dimmer switch, pieces such as Lynden, Valencia, and Skylar create the perfect vibe for a long soak in the bathtub, quietly helping you let stress go and visualize good things coming your way. 

 


Got the water running? Drift away on this alabaster-related piece of peaceful music.

 

Now that you know some background and uses of alabaster, perhaps you’ll have a better appreciation next time you see it in use. In our next edition of The Materials Report, we’ll be exploring alabaster’s cousin and everyone’s favorite kitchen island material, marble.