I respect miners, but I don’t envy them—black lung doesn’t sound like all that much fun. What I do envy a little bit, though, are the lamps that helped them carry out their backbreaking work. The Geordie, the Davy and others are great examples of just how much aesthetic character and practical utility handheld lanterns had in an era before flashlights came into our lives and their D-batteries started rolling around in our kitchen drawers. The people at Juniper, a Brooklyn-based design studio, felt the same way, so they decided to update the traditional miner’s lamp for our modern, above-ground lives.
The M Lamp is a handsome wireless lantern powered by a rechargeable lithium battery. There’s not a whole lot to it—a cylindrical body holds the power supply, a dimmable LED emits up to 3,000 lux of light, and a thin metal handle lets you tote the whole thing around. The lamp was designed by David Irwin, a graduate of Northumbria University School of Design in North East England—a region with a rich legacy of mining—and it comes in a matte black fit for a Batcave, a glossy white fit for an Apple Store, and a bright orange suitable for just about any construction site you might happen across.
But what, you might ask, is a mining lamp good for if you’re not laboring in a dank subterranean cavern? It’s true—you could write the thing off as a less ergonomic flashlight. But it makes more sense when you think of it as a portable indoor lamp, one you can move around as needed without having to worry about cords or sockets. You could put it on your nightstand when you’re reading in bed, use it to light up your house when the power goes out, or just grab it on your way out the door for a nighttime dog walk. Juniper’s founder, Shant Madjarian, recently showed the M Lamp to Milton Glaser. In Madjarian’s words, the renowned designer thought it might serve best "as an accent light for artwork that can be illuminated in different ways for different effects by changing the location of the lamps." But even if you don’t have art at home that demands dramatic lighting, the point is that the usefulness of a portable indoor lamp might not be apparent until you have one in your life. "Sometimes that happens with new products," Madjarian writes, "they create their own need."
When Madjarian put the lamp on Kickstarter, though, he found that some people weren’t as keen on the lamp’s portability as they were on its look in general; many wrote in asking about the possibility of a wired version. Madjarian was surprised by the demand—the product had always been a portable task lamp foremost in his mind—but a cheaper, wired version was "an option we knew we could confidently deliver," he says, so they quickly made one available exclusively on the Kickstarter site.
With a week and change left in its campaign, the M Lamp is a little under halfway to reaching its funding goal. Pre-ordering the wireless version will set you back $160; the wired version is only $95.