“Take your passion and make it happen,” says Melbourne-based designer Cindy-Lee Davies. “Probably watched Flashdance too many times in the 80s.” But since an early age she was motivated to make things with her hands, partly spurred on by her brother who taught her how to weld with scrap metal. They would create ashtrays from clay at a nearby dam and bake them. Cindy-Lee went on to have a studio in a scrap metal yard and at the age of 19 was door-knocking on cafes to sell her wares. “They actually sold and I felt I was going to be a maker of sorts,” she says. Over the years Cindy-Lee has worked for Chanel in Spain and Anthropologie in the USA. She also visual merchandised the windows for Kate Spade in America. However, in 2005 she decided to launch her own business, Lightly, focussing on lighting and homewares. While the product range has grown to more than 100, Cindy-Lee has always been interested in combining traditional craft aesthetics with modern-day technology, as well as supporting local manufacturers.

Which five words best describe you? Passionate, organised, creative, honest and loyal.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I graduated from studies in furniture design with past studies in industrial design, lighting engineering and sculpture. I spent over six years working as a lighting consultant for architects and interior designers representing Italian ranges such as Flos, Alcantara, Oluce and Fontana Arte. Before I launched my own company Lightly I spent two years creating film and lighting installations of chairs in St Etienne. In 2005 I started telling my own story launching a company in homage to my grandmother Rosemary Estelle Lightly - my first line being a range of homewares and lighting inspired by doilies and lace - Lightly.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Employ good staff and a team that understands your industry and vision. Work/life balance is very important and constant lesson. When you finish work for the day, finish work.

What’s your proudest career achievement? Staying true to what genuinely inspires me and is honest to my ideology of setting up the business as far as supporting local and small manufacturers, not mass production, sustainable studio environment and original thoughtful design.

What’s been your best decision? To take a risk and start Lightly.

What inspires you? Owning a small business you have a lot of daily demands on you, so I appreciate the space and tranquility to freely think without too many distractions is the greatest motivator. Travel and space is no better inspiration.

What are you passionate about? I am really passionate about people following their passion, it pretty much makes me cry. Generally I am passionate about many things some of them being, creating, health, travel, food and family.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I’d like to have long lunch with my grandmother again, Rosemary Estelle Lightly. She passed in 2002 and played a very supportive role in my childhood and how I see the world today. She would be very proud of Lightly and my biggest fan. Also, for inspiration Vivienne Westwood. And Gandhi for a humble word about life.

What dream do you still want to fulfill? At a younger age pre-design I lived in India working in orphanages and with street people. I would like to do something really good again to help people but involve design. We do work with a few small communities and families to get them on their feet but I am thinking something bigger. I love travelling and finding makers of their craft and supporting their industry, honouring and savoring their crafts.

What are you reading? I must admit I watch film more than I read. Best last film was Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky; the interiors are spectacular.

images courtesy of cindy-lee davies; photography brooke holm, eve wilson (portrait)