Regina Connell

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Master of Light: Christopher Poehlman


Lighting. It makes or breaks a space. There is not a single piece of furniture, textile, etc. that is more powerful than great lighting. It sets a mood. It defines space. And great lighting is sculpture, jewelry for a room, identity, personality.

In so many cases, it’s the lighting you connect to, not anything else.

Given that these people with sculpting mood from both light and material, I’ve found that they’re pretty smart. And few are smarter and more thoughtful than Philadelphia-based Christopher Poehlmann of CP Lighting.

Working both products and custom commissions, CP Lighting creates handmade decorative light fixtures and furniture designed by internationally-acclaimed designer/artist Christopher for residential, commercial and hospitality since1991.

The son of an inventor father and mother who’d gone to art school, Chris is a maker from way back, designing and making things – even clothes –in high school.   He did go a more conventionally “practical” route for a while, doing a stint of pre-med and earning a BS in psychology, but ultimately found his way back to design – particularly craft, photography.

His realization that he truly loved design came his last year in college, when he visited Salzburg, Austria. At a time when everyday design was not particularly robust in the US, he found that Europeans were taking a vastly different approach where the design of everyday objects and furnishings was concerned.

Chris is self-taught both in design and in sculpture and making. Instead, his career has come from his simple need to turn his sketches and ideas into reality.

Chris creates his products and custom pieces with one part time assistant and additional help on an as-needed basis or outsource when needed. However, when he does outsource, it is as local as possible and never overseas. For Chris, it's not about getting the best cost, but about working with other small businesses that can do what needs to be done – better and more efficiently.

Whether it’s his iconic newGrowth series of chandeliers (each one unique) or his furniture, one of the many charms of Chris’s work is that while it’s considered and rigorous, there’s a sense of looseness and sense of fun about it. You feel a joy and freshness to it, a hint of adventure and exploration. “I'm deeply invested in craft and the handmade object,” says Chris. “I love the process and I love imperfections and happy accidents. For the many years that I focused on welded steel furniture, I talked about my process as meticulous imperfection.”

Most recently, he’s begun to experiment with 3D printing with his P3d Collection. With this collection, Chris takes an iconic image of a leaf and crafts a series of pendants that elicit the feeling of blowing leaves. An energy-efficient LED engine illuminates the cluster of leaves, which capture its light as well as transmit light and shadow to create the perfect mix of mood and function. 

The inspiration came – in true Poehlmann form – from a need. Chris realized that the single most confounding design issue with LED technology is that LEDs are inherently directional.  How does one deal with a light source that almost exclusively functions as a spotlight?  Chris’s answer: begin using carved acrylic in various forms to capture this directed light. At ICFF in 2014, he introduced lighting that incorporated 3d printing technology to create shades that absorb and reflect the directed light of the LED, glowing orbs of swirling leaves that cast beautiful light and shadow.

Mastering shadow, light, form and nothingness: that’s Christopher Poehlmann.

Image Credits: CP Lighting