Jenssen: After a decade of living in Taos, NM, I moved in the mid-’90s to the West Texas ghost town of Terlingua, where I was inspired by the desert and the rusty detritus of the town’s mining past. It was then that I began making metal sculptures out of found objects.
In 1996, I was commissioned by a local bed and breakfast to make light sconces, so I taught myself welding and sheet metal manipulation. I fell in love with lighting, and since then I’ve been designing lights and illuminated sculptures for motels, restaurants and private homes.
Stylistically, I’m most comfortable doing Deco and Southwestern. I also do some whimsical, tongue-in-cheek designs, like the piece titled Can We Go Now? that expresses my concern for the planet. Other lighting designs are more straightforward, such as my stock line of simple, punched-steel sconces made with a sharpened 16-penny nail.
I come from a family of artists and craftsmen. My father and his brother could literally make anything between them. The two were very accomplished carpenters and furniture builders. My father was an architect, as well. I was brought up around this; it was part of my life.
There’s a lot of engineering to what I do. I like to tell people that I must have been an engineer in a past life because I really enjoy the challenge of coming up with a design and then figuring out how to make it. A good example is Flight Path, a sconce that looks like a butterfly or an angel that I designed for a fellow whose home was right in the flight path of the San Antonio airport. It was actually my first use of LEDs, which can be seen at the ends of the copper tubes.
I will continue to do more with LEDs in the future. As a matter of fact, I’m about to take an electronics fundamentals class at the local college with the idea of learning the basics, so it’s not so abstract to me, and so I really understand the ohms, the resistance and the other things that I need to know to work with the newer, low-wattage lighting. I’m an inveterate recycler and a “use less, not more” kind of person, so I definitely want to go in a low-wattage direction with my lighting. It’s the wave of the future.