Interview with Rachel Hunter, Santa Cruz Artist

Rachel Hunter Lighting

Interview with Rachel Hunter, of Rachel Hunter Lighting

Rachel Hunter, of Rachel Hunter Lighting, is a local Santa Cruz artist who creates incredible light fixtures and furniture. Rachel designs and creates bespoke chandeliers and other unique light fixtures for residential and commercial spaces, building statement pieces that literally light up the room. Not only are her art pieces eye-catching, but Rachel herself is incredibly interesting. I absolutely loved chatting with her and getting to know the person behind the art.

The Interview:

Shemeika Fox: “Hi everybody, I’m here with Rachel Hunter of Rachel Hunter Lighting Design, and I’m super excited to introduce you to her and to her work. We’re here at Open Studios, which is on Delaware. And at the time this is out Open Studios would be closed, but you can still reach her and get in touch with her on her website and phone and all that stuff. So, Rachel, how did you get involved with creating these masterpieces of light fixtures?”

Rachel Hunter: “Wow, thank you. I have always loved making things and I got started with lights just really, as an accident one day. I had a really cool piece of driftwood and I wanted to hang it and do something with it, and I thought of lighting it and I’ve been so interested ever since.”

Shemeika Fox: “Wow. So, mixing the natural elements with the lighting just kind of came to you organically because you were curious?”

Rachel Hunter: “I think so, yep. I hung something up and started adding pieces to it. And I still love these natural elements, a lot of branches. And then industrial fittings, hardware, metal pieces, and the light itself is always the most fun, to actually light it up.”

Shemeika Fox: “That’s so cool. Are you a trained artist? Do you go to school for art?”

Rachel Hunter: “I did. I studied art at Cabrillo and then I went to design school at San Jose State and studied industrial design there.”

Shemeika Fox: “Oh, cool. So you’ve been doing this forever.”

Rachel Hunter: “Yeah, pretty much. Even before school I would make things.”

Shemeika Fox: “And she has like a really amazing collection of leather wear, and last time I saw her, she showed me this really cool, was it steel, the fire pit?”

Rachel Hunter: “Oh yeah. Furniture. Anything that you can use as a product. Anything. I would love to make.”

Shemeika Fox: “Like give her your garbage and she’ll come out with something that will really interest you. Do you have a favorite medium that you like to work with?”

Rachel Hunter: “I can’t choose. Three dimensional work is always what I’ve loved the most. I like to draw and paint also. I ended up always wanting to stand it up and make it three dimensional somehow. So, let’s see, what’s my favorite piece? How did I get started?”

Shemeika Fox: “Oh yeah, what’s your favorite piece? Yeah, good, good. So, Rachel’s gonna take over. I’ll be back later.”

Rachel Hunter: “No, no, no, you stay here.”

Shemeika Fox: “What’s your favorite piece that you’ve ever made? Do you have a favorite piece?”

Rachel Hunter: “Always the most recent one. Yeah, because you know, it’s just what I was the most interested in, I always add in something I’ve never done.”

Shemeika Fox: “What’s the most recent piece that you made?”

Rachel Hunter: “This piece here with the gold leaf, I don’t know if you could see it on that camera. This was a whole new process. It has a crack inside the wood, I wanted to light it and make it glow, and it totally glows. But, I love all of them. It’s just always fun. Especially installing at a client’s house and seeing it up for the first time and actually have your light come on.”

Shemeika Fox: “How does the collaboration with your clients work? Do they come to with an idea? Or do you just say, this would look really cool, let me take it from here? Or a mixture?”

Rachel Hunter: “A mixture, yeah. It depends a lot on the job. Usually they have seen my work or their designer has and I’ll go look at the space, talk to them, see what elements they like. Often I’m, kind of bridging the differences between a couple. So finding something that they both love is a good challenge and I love working with people on custom projects.”

Shemeika Fox: “That’s really cool. I wanted to know, for you like, what does your creative process look like? Like I know that you got inspired by a piece of driftwood and that’s how you kind of got started in the lighting, but like, do you usually find a piece that inspires you and you go from there?”

Rachel Hunter: “It usually starts with one thing. It can be the space that is, you know, that I’m designing for, or a piece of furniture that’s in the space already, some detail, architectural detail, and often it’s just a piece of hardware or a finish or different material. I’ll find a really cool brass chain or just any little detail like that. It’s kind of like jewelry. So you start with one element and then add things in and take them away and I hang up a lot of stuff and keep looking at it in the studio. Until it’s done. A lot of stuff, always, everywhere.”

Elle (Videographer): “How long does it take you to make a piece, typically?”

Shemeika Fox: “That’s a really good question.”

Rachel Hunter: “I give myself a while for custom pieces, for commissions. 8 to 12 weeks from start to finish. And that includes visiting the site, talking with the clients and the designer, and then sourcing all the materials and often custom making elements for the piece. When I’m doing something just for myself or for a show, it can be months of hanging different elements up, trying things out, making parts ditching them. And yeah, it does take a while for all the little pieces to come together.”

Shemeika Fox: “Last time, or maybe the time before, you were telling me and Danny, I think, that you were starting to get into LED, Is that right? So like, how do you teach yourself how to use these new materials when there’s a function involved and then there’s also a client involved?”

Rachel Hunter: “Yeah. A lot of these pieces are LED and the gold leaf piece there, it has the LED, which is wet rated. So that’s exciting cause it can go outside too. And I research, I talk to the manufacturers, they have usually really good tech help. Yeah, just figure it out. The one that was the hardest is also the gold leaf branch at the back.”

Shemeika Fox: “Because it’s with a new product that you?”

Rachel Hunter: “I’m not a woodworker so I had to learn a lot of woodworking for that to set the lighting inside the piece, that was technical. And then the gold leaf is a whole art form too. So that was a complete departure from what I been doing. The piece right here, I think that what makes me the happiest when I light it up, it’s just, I love the texture and it has like graphite coating on the wood, which was really fun to explore and experiment with.”

Shemeika Fox: “It’s like jewelry, it’s so pretty.”

Rachel Hunter: “Thank you. They are really fun when they light up, I have to say. I am always critical, but…”

Shemeika Fox: “They’re incredible, they’re so cool. Well, you heard it from Rachel Hunter. If you wanna visit her, we will put all of her information down below so that you can reach out to her and order or collaborate to make a custom piece with Rachel. Thanks, Rachel.”

I had the honor of interviewing Rachel Hunter at her Open Studios on Delaware Ave. It was so nice of her to take the time to talk to me about her creative process, and I hope you enjoy learning more about Rachel in this video!

To learn more about Rachel or to schedule a consultation with her, visit

Thank you Rachel!!

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