Poehlmann: My first best-selling series [for CP Lighting] was the Cup and Saucer sconce, which hit in the mid '90s and was an overnight success to the point that I had a dedicated employee for those fixtures.
I didn’t have a propensity toward natural elements until six years ago, when I found this great steel material that had a wood bark pattern embossed on it. That led to my Deconstructed Rustic Series.
Then about two years ago, a client of mine in Florida asked me to reinterpret Tord Boontje’s light for Swarovski, which is an actual living tree branch covered with crystals and Christmas tree lights. Since I don’t copy other people’s work, I talked them into a 1950s-style design instead—that era has been a huge influence on me. What I gave them initially was this Jetsons-like fixture that had nothing to do with organic. While I was trying to figure out the logistics—which looked great on paper but not on the workbench—I had this “a-ha” moment and saw how I could take the idea of the tree branch and make it completely my own. I started by welding together a bunch of aluminum pipes of different sizes and found I could create these natural, airy and organic looking trees. I gave them a brushed aluminum finish, chased wires through them and put lamps on the tips.
For me personally, the resulting newGrowth Series has been very successful. It has also become this fantastically successful series of lights for my business. Every single one is unique, and I build them without any plans. I feel like I’m creating unique sculpture every time I do one. It has helped me feel much more like an artist again. For a while, I was doing straight industrial design work. [That] is fun and good in itself, but the organic nature of the newGrowth Series has been really exciting.
The other series that I do that has been really successful is the Popsicle pendant series, made out of recycled acrylic with either incandescent lamping or compact fluorescent. It’s a super low-tech, in-house recycling project, but the colored acrylic hides the lamping, and the potential color rendering problems of compact fluorescents are pretty much moot.
I’m learning as much as I can about emerging technologies and hoping that LED technology comes up to par soon because I would love to light the ends of the newGrowth lamps with LEDs. Right now we use candelabra-sized bulbs. LEDs would create nice little pinpoints of light.