We are delighted to be able to interview Ulrich Huber, creator and soul of the company Almut, specialized in the production of hay lamps, a wonderful example of the use of natural materials for the production of disferent items.
Why this fascination with lighting? Does it fit in with a commercial strategy where lamps are considered the easiest product to sell?
The lighting industry is arguably one of the most competitive industries there is and we occupy a very very small niche. Our strategy to survive in this industry is also our raison d'être: organic lamps. That's it. We remain true to ourselves, offer products with a clear conscience and are convinced that there are more and more people who think in a similar way and are looking for such products. But why this fascination with lighting? Why not Applestrudel or any other product? I don’t know… The main thing is it’s fun, lamps are versatile and it makes me happy. Maybe the process itself is the fascination.
Why choose hay as your main raw material? What advantages does this material offer in terms of design and manufacture?
Hay is a symbol of Alpine cultural landscape - our home. We are all very close to nature and spend our free time in the Tyrolean mountains. The idea of bringing nature inside inspired us to ALMUT. That's why we can not think of a better material for our lampshades than pure alpine hay. Hay can be easily processed and cut, is always available and has a high inherent rigidity and yet it is flexible. In addition, hay allows us a multi-sensuality: you can see it, feel it, even smell it as it is preserved by 100 %
How is the process of synthesizing this raw material? You also use other materials in your designs (beechwood/oak, jute fibers etc.). Are they also a choice based on their sustainability?
The hay is dried, cleaned, crushed and then pressed with a natural binder to a 1.3 mm thick plate. All other materials that we use and that we can influence are purely natural raw materials. At the lampshade we do without a wire frame, toxic glue, PVC etc. Also with the textile cable we pay attention to a natural casing like jute fibers. In addition, we also pay attention to the countries of origin of our components. For example Socket and cable from Italy / Turin. As you can see sustainability is important to us. It’s an ongoing mission to improve yourself day by day. However we never use this word to promote our products, we do not provide a sustainability report etc. Sustainability should be a matter of course
You talk about nature as one of the main values of Almut as a company and of its lamps: How does this respect for nature show in your products?
We want to show that it is possible to produce lampshades without wire frames, plastics, toxic adhesives or harmful carrier materials. Our products and the materials used are the obvious thing about ALMUT from Wildheim and speak for themselves. However, there is so much more behind the product that matters but which is not necessarily visible to the outsider. The surface treatment for the wood is 100% natural, vegan and comes from Tyrol. You can even eat the treatment, but it does not taste very good. Believe me! Our packaging is made of wood, recycled and reused materials, and even the packing tape is made of paper. Our team T-shirts are made of wood fiber and are produced in Portugal, we ride the bike to work, or walk, etc. So it’s not only the product, it’s us – like many other people - who have a great respect for the environment
What can you tell us about the safety of these lamps and the materials they are made of?
The first question people ask us is: "is that starting to burn?" Of course not! The lampshade made of hay is flame retardant according to the IBS Institute (B-s1, d0) and the wooden mounting is not easily flammable. But this should not be an invitation to play with an open flame at the lampshade. Even a refrigerator burns when you light it. However, there are also concerns from allergy sufferers regarding hay fever. Here we can give the all-clear. The main allergens of the hay were checked (ego-luftqualität + Raumklima GmbH, Cologne) and no emissions of allergens in the final product could be detected. So everyone is invited to sniff on the lampshade without hesitation.
You emphasize regionalism and its value How do your company and your products contribute to emphasizing the values of the region?
Regionality is an integral part of our brand philosophy. We know our suppliers and their employees personally and visit them regularly. We are not only interested in their products, but also in the team behind the product. For us, it is very important that not only the supplier understands our philosophy, but that we know exactly with whom we are dealing with. The more our partners know about us, about our needs and vice versa the less mistakes are made. However, Regionality is also part of our business strategy. According to trend and motivational researchers, consumer behavior is changing significantly: the trend is towards reduced, more regionally and ethically oriented consumption. We also notice this in ourselves and in our actions in private life. That’s why we are convinced that regionalism is an important part to be competitive.
Thank you so much for your kind attention Ulrich and thanks for contributing in such a beautiful, constructive and sustainable way to the society.
We wish you all best ¡