Designer and craftsman Hugo Boys of Bosco London tells us about his handcrafted lighting and passion for conservation
What is the inspiration behind Bosco London and how did the business begin?
From a young age I have always enjoyed making things – in particular, from natural material. I started off making different walking sticks out of buffalo horns and antlers as well as carving knife and fork sets as presents for friends and family. It was not until I was sent some antelope horn that the idea of my lights developed. To me, these products are beautiful in their own right so I like to exhibit that in a way that will appeal to people as something subtle and unique to have in their home.
Where did the name Bosco London come from?
I have always been known as Bosco by many of my friends so it was a rather easy decision!
How do you work with these natural by-products to hone and bring out the unique perfections in each?
Part of the joy of using natural material is that no two pieces are ever the same. For the lights I always suggest buying a pair as they will be from the same animal and will generally sit symmetrically. However, there are still differences with two horns from the same animal because life in the natural environment creates subtle variations between each horn. Depending on what I am making, I will sometimes leave the horn as natural as possible but it also depends on what finish a client has requested. I want all my products to represent the beauty of the animal they are from but also to be contemporary enough to complement and enhance different environments: a London house, a New York flat, a traditional country house or a modern hotel.
Talk me through the creative process from the initial collection of the horn through to the individual handcrafting of the pieces by you
I have various suppliers in South Africa who source the raw materials for me. The horns are collected from all over, depending on where the animals have been managed. It is important to get them from areas where they are endemic rather then farmed. Depending on what the client has ordered, I complement the main horn piece with a variety of different metal finishes: polished brass, nickel or antique brass. Each horn is different and challenging to work with. A Kudu is a very large antelope with strong horns whereas an impala’s are much thinner and more delicate. When working with natural material there is always a risk of it breaking or splitting which does happen occasionally but I maintain good supplies so any waste can be used in other products. My aim is always to reduce wastage and recycle wherever possible.
Where do you make your pieces and how long does it take to make a pair of lights?
I currently have a small workshop at my parents’ house. For a small start-up business it is very important to keep the costs down. I hope to move to a bigger workshop as the business grows. The lead-time is six to eight weeks for a pair of lights because I don’t hold a finished stock; each one is made to order for each client.
Can you explain the emphasis you place on conservation and using products that would otherwise be regarded as waste?
Wildlife management is imperative in Africa, with South Africa and Namibia arguably leading from the front. In both these countries the land is mostly privately owned and ring-fenced to meet legal requirements. If the soil is overgrazed, there is little to no growth, which is detrimental to the whole ecosystem, so culling (or ‘harvesting’) is crucial. Whereas meat is never wasted and goes to local communities, horns are often discarded. This is where Bosco London comes in: my aim is to create beautiful objects using these by-products, to eliminate waste and to give back to the community.
How do you hope to give back to local communities?
I am currently in the process of setting up a relationship with a local community in South Africa. Their land was given back to them after the apartheid era as part of the land reform and is currently being managed for them by a leading South African charity. Antelope is the primary source of protein in the people’s diet, however, the horns are left over and they have very little use of them. By buying these horns we are creating an income for the community, which they would otherwise not have. We are also creating jobs that would involve cleaning and processing the horn in preparation for delivery.
Bosco London has a key social and charitable focus at its core. How else does the company uphold its benevolent values?
I strongly believe that if you use natural material you have a responsibility to support where it came from and to ensure that it is sustainable and ethically sourced, otherwise what I am doing would have little credibility. As a wildlife enthusiast I am passionate about this, which is why ten per cent of my profits go back to the land, animals and communities where my natural products originate. Too often charitable donations can be watered down and only a small percentage actually reaches its chosen destination; my contribution will always go directly to the communities with whom I work.
What is in store for Bosco London?
I have lots of new products planned but I am restricted since I make up the entire company’s work force. I hope to be expanding my staff soon!