Trained as an electrician in the 1970s, Greg Kay — founder of Tech Lighting, Edge Lighting, and Pure Lighting — first became known for his lighting accomplishments in the roller disco era. He has since hung up his skates, but not his passion for bringing innovation and creativity to the lighting industry.
How did you enter the lighting industry?
I began my career as an electrician in Detroit, becoming a master electrician in 1979. I then went into business with a distributor in the roller skating industry – Midwest Skate Company – and became a roller disco lighting specialist! The business drew the attention of Paul Gregory of LiteLab (and later Focus Lighting), who was also known for designing the dance floor in the 1977 movie Saturday Night Fever. Paul Gregory and I formed a lasting working relationship, with Paul teaching me many aspects of the art of lighting design.
In 1983, I became interested in the world of contemporary design after attending New York’s first Light World Convention, where I first saw low-voltage halogen lighting incorporated into contemporary fixture designs. I decided to apply the technical knowledge of lighting to create fixtures that catered to this emerging design trend. Later that year, I moved to Chicago and opened Tech Lighting, the first contemporary lighting showroom in the city of Chicago.
Since I am an electrician by trade, I have an advantage as a designer by understanding not only the design process, but also the installation process and the possibilities of what can be done. Therefore, after selling Tech Lighting in 2001, I started the showroom and retail store, Lightology. In 2006, I developed Pure Lighting and then Edge Lighting in 2007. These two lines of architectural-grade lighting manufacture sustainable lighting solutions, including low-voltage LED lighting and specification-grade, energy-efficient luminaires.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen?
Learning to spell (thank God for spell check)! Seriously, I try to keep up with technology and then look at what needs have not been fulfilled. Certainly with LEDs for a few years, I was learning something new every day. With LEDs, you are not only designing the fixture, but you are also designing the light source. With this comes added responsibility for the fixture manufacturer, but also allows for full freedom in the design process. It is exciting to be able to design the light source and the fixture together instead of designing a fixture around an existing lamp.
What has been the key to your success?
I think it has been my undeniable passion for lighting, combined with my vision to understand and execute unique lighting solutions. I asked a co-worker this question and she said I was not normal and that I am a morph between a human and some sort of high-energy wild creature. I don’t feel that way….until I see myself on a video, then I get it.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started out?
How important it is to have what they call in Italian “codici parlanti” ordering codes that speak — in the beginning, I had confusing ordering codes. Now I spend a large amount of time on creating clearly understandable codes for the customer so they can easily build lighting systems.
Where do you envision Edge and Pure Lighting in 5 to 10 years?
Edge and Pure are now under one company, PureEdge Lighting, but they are separate brands. Pure Lighting is all about minimalism. All of the fixtures are plastered in and you only see or feel the light. For me, the goal is getting to zero; meaning, you see only the light and none of the structure. Edge Lighting is about everything else I want to do. Edge is now all about personalized lighting. With LEDs, we are no longer constrained in a 2×4 world. You can design your own fixture from 1 to 10 feet within a tolerance of 2.4 inches. You can satisfy your client’s needs on a more personalized level — and deliver it within two weeks.
The next progression will be combining the two product lines with Pure being in the wall and Edge seamlessly coming out of the wall together appearing as one fixture.