My role as gallery director at Northwest Fine Woodwork puts me in the very fortunate position of getting to know clever, kind and inspired individuals fulfilled by the work they have chosen along their life path. Earlier this year I spent a day with Stephen White, the maker of the stunning light sculptures that adorn the Northwest Fine Woodworking gallery interior. Stephen has been involved with our gallery for many years but his personal story leading to a lifetime as a working artist only became clear to me while hanging this year’s Bright Ideas show. I am pleased to share some highlights from my time with Stephen here.
Luminessence – the essence of light encapsulated in the designing and building of original handcrafted light sculptures began for Stephen over 45 years ago. A degree in architecture from Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh lead him in the direction of a professional “artistic” career, but a four year tour of duty in the Air Force put a temporary stop to that journey. What seemed to be an unfortunate delay on one hand became a fortuitous promise on another, for it was during this time of service that his desire for creative expression opened to designing in another medium.
Stephen White recalls “The old adage, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ is an appropriate description of how this creative path opened for me. It was basically the need for a lighting fixture for my home near the base where I was stationed near Nashville, Tenn. that led me to create my first work in this medium.” The materials he began with were paper and wood and now, years later, with a few refinements in technique and many explorations in design form, the materials are still paper and wood. “The essence of that first piece is still evident in my work today.”
Looking back on his career as a working artist he says “I have had the good fortune to live and work as an artist since I was 25. Now at 72, as I look back over those many years, I am thrilled to see the length and depth of my artistic journey. All told, I have created somewhere in the neighborhood of 2000 light sculptures that have been installed around the world in homes, galleries and pubic buildings.”
What does he site as his inspiration? Essentially, Nature herself. “Along my path I have lived in many diverse landscapes. From middle Tennessee to Arctic Alaska, north shore Oahu to northern and southern California, northern Germany to southern Italy and now in the Pacific Northwest, each one has impacted me and influences my artistic vision. That and the materials being natural have lead me into a world of art where most of the forms I create have an organic appearance to them. Then, too, in some of my work there is a hint of the architectural background I gained during my college years.”
Stephen White admits that often by letting the wood speak for itself, he finds what he sees as the natural way to put one and two-dimensional materials together to make beautiful three-dimensional forms that will emanate the light they contain. “Finding new ways to put these same simple materials together is my joy and has lead me down numerous and varied avenues in my quest for beauty.”
For more information on the Stephen’s works currently available at Northwest Fine woodworking or to inquire about custom projects, email firstname.lastname@example.org