Industrial designer Charles Skender had a privileged upbringing - living in a large suburban home with a strong family dynamic. He was always close to his grandparents on both sides of the family. With European heritage - they all had large backyards full of all kinds of produce - citrus, nuts, herbs, greens, veggies, you name it. Here started Charles' journey to grow food, and his new brand, AMPLE.
We caught up recently with Charles to talk about AMPLE.
GP: How did AMPLE get started?
CS: When I was about 12 my family made the decision to move to an apartment. My Dad would work late hours and the new premise had his office downstairs so mum was no longer worrying about Dad commuting back late at night. This move somewhat forced us to change the way we grew things. With only a limited amount of balcony space, Dad started to experiment with hydroponics and soon had a variety of leafy greens growing out of PVC tubes. I eventually moved out and went interstate to start my career in industrial design. The want to grow things never quite left me.
At the time I was also living in spaces that didn’t have the luxury of a large balcony so I got online and started learning about grow lights. This world was amazing and before long I had a few sets of the blue and purple style grow lights on their way. Living mostly in share houses, this wasn't exactly ideal as most of my mates thought I was up to something more nefarious than growing basil. As a designer - I guess this was also a frustration of mine - all of these lights were designed for the commercial market or assumed you had a designated area hidden away from the main living rooms - that could be used as a grow 'setup'. Apartment living is great, but every room needs to work extra hard and there are certainly no free areas for a grow room.
So that’s really where the AMPLE journey started.
GP: Why start with the AMPLE Plant Light No1 (PL1)?
CS: We decided to start with a table lamp as it is one of the most accessible pieces of lighting you can own. There is no installation, and it is highly mobile meaning you can have it on the kitchen bench, office desk or bedside table. We wanted it to be super minimal - it had to fit into any home or with a range of decor, and not detract from the hero - your plant.
The idea of integrating a pot was discussed however there was a conscious decision to steer away from this. Having experience shipping products globally - you try to minimize as much air as possible. Companies like IKEA are great at this and there are not only economical benefits but also environmental benefits too. By getting rid of the pot you are going away with shipping large volumes of air. This reduces the embedded carbon of each shipped package. We then encourage consumers to seek out local artisans that specialse in pots - like a ceramicist - to find a solution that works for them. This provides a way to add some personality to what is somewhat of a blank canvas - which is for us really something quite exciting.
We have a Kickstarter campaign launching soon where people will have the opportunity to back our vision by pre-ordering PL1. However this is just the start. We see a really big opportunity to become one of the leaders in horticultural lighting, designed for domestic spaces. Lights that are not only great for your plants, but also you.
GP: How have you been working with planters as you design?
CS: AMPLE and companies like Glowpear really share similar values - both of us aim to provide access to green spaces in urban environments. What we started thinking about was how we can create a product that allows systems like the Glowpear Mini to be utilised in all areas of the home - not just environments that receive sun.
It was really exciting using Glowpears in my garage with one of our first prototypes. Garages are great as they are usually on a ground floor with a lot of thermal mass above them that acts as an insulator. It’s ironic that in greenhouses energy demands are mainly for mitigating the heat produced by the very thing that's powering them - the sun. Advancements in LED technology in the last few years have meant they’ve become extremely energy efficient. Spaces like a garage, that are essentially only accessed for short periods of the day, could now become your food bowl. All of sudden you start to rethink your entire home - maybe that corner furthest away from a window could have some tomatoes?
We love the sound of that Charles, it's innovation in action to spread the urban jungle!