Dresden-based designers Alexander Paul Finke and Jörg Zinser make and sell wood veneer lighting.

One half of the partnership comes from Greifswald in north-east Germany and the other from Freudenstadt in the south-west. They met in Dresden, on the 13th degree of longitude, and the location inspired the name of the company – “Dreizehngrad” (13th degree). Finke and Zinser both studied product design at Dresden University of Applied Sciences (HTW) before setting up their own business together.

The pair now earn their money from a product they extensively tested and refined during the course of their studies. For their final examination, they designed and constructed floor lamps with shades made out of veneer – a wafer-thin layer of wood through which the light shines softly with a warm, cosy glow that highlights the grain of the wood. With elegant and classic veneer lighting priced between 250 and 750 euros – customised products are more expensive – Dreizehngrad claims to belong to a small group of only three or four suppliers in Europe.

A shining example

Three years ago, Finke and Zinser exhibited their lighting designs at the Light and Building trade show in Frankfurt, which boosted their motivation enormously. “We were really surprised when we received our first orders at the show,” says 33-year-old Finke. Since then, the pair have been busy designing floor lamps and pendant lamps and bringing them to market. They aim to add a collection every year. After selling a modest 100 lamps in 2011, the figure rose to 600 last year and this year they expect to achieve 1,000. “Our sales are slowly but steadily increasing,” says Finke.

From university to the business world

The two designers faced a number of commercial obstacles when starting out. Help came from the university, public authorities and the Sächsische Aufbaubank (SAB). Their former university put a fully equipped, rent-free office at their disposal for two years, where Dreizehngrad was able to benefit from the experience of other young entrepreneurs. Now the subsidies have come to an end and they have swapped the office for space in a courtyard building a few hundred metres from Dresden’s historical old town. Visitors to the creative workshop stumble at every turn over lighting designs, sketches, prototypes and cardboard models. Three-dimensional designs, tables and diagrams flicker on computer screens.

The lampshades measure up to 0.4 millimetres in thickness and are made from cherrywood, birch, walnut and maple. The electrical components are the only elements which are bought in. A major contract for Esprit is evidence of the popularity of the duo’s pendant lights, floor lamps, table lamps and wall lights. The fashion chain recently bought hundreds of “Swing” lamps to install in its stores across Europe.