Beyond the Light: Chris Poehlmann, Founder of CP Lighting

Chris Poehlmann, Founder of CP Lighting, first fell in love with design while studying photography in Salzburg in 1985. That love stuck with him throughout his travels through Europe, and led to a desire to constantly learn everything he could about design.

From the beginning, when he designed tables, chairs, and clocks as a hobby, to the transition period from self-study to actually becoming a maker, to today as the Founder of CP Lighting, Chris Poehlmann has always focused on creating meaningful, artful objects with function.

CP Lighting was officially born in 1994 after the introduction of the whimsical Cup & Saucer wall scone, which was published by 40 magazines worldwide ranging from Metropolis to Country Living. Now, Chris Poehlmann has designed a collection for Nadarra Lighting, The Poehlmann Collection x Nadarra, which stays true to his foundation of creating meaningful, artful objects with function. Below we catch up with him, to talk about the past, present and future of innovative, but beautiful lighting design.

OLED Light Fixture

How did you originally get into lighting design? Are there any life experiences that shaped your career path?

I fell in love with design while studying photography in Salzburg in 1985 and that love has never left. Traveling in Europe introduced me to contemporary and historic design objects that I had never been exposed to in the States. Suddenly I had an obsession and have been in a constant state of learning ever since. That a-ha moment where I viscerally connected with the designed world in the mid-80s is something I value and strive to achieve still with each new design.

I started out making tables, chairs clocks and lamps around 1988, after letting that design obsession grow to a point where I needed to do more than self-study and actually become a maker. The important thing for me was making meaningful, artful objects with function. Light fixtures were just part of that mix of useful objects that we live with. I started exhibiting at art galleries around the country and then graduated to the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in 1994 where my light fixtures proved to be the most sought after sector of my work. CP Lighting was officially born the following year when I introduced my whimsical Cup + Saucer wall sconce at the ICFF – around 40 magazines published images worldwide ranging from Metropolis to Country Living. It had universal appeal and put me on the world stage.

Since then, I have been grateful to receive press coverage for many of my products in nearly all the shelter and design publications across the globe. I have built a sustainable business on designing and making objects that interest and engage me as opposed to designing specifically for a market. Sometimes this takes time to build a market for new ideas but the R+D and bringing an idea to reality is exciting and satisfying work. In the end, I have come to think of my career as being parts entrepreneur, artist, designer, engineer, inventor, and craftsperson.

What do you believe is the most critical element in designing lights that are not only unique but true works of art? I have always thought of the objects that we choose to live with and place in our homes as being imbued with meaning. Sometimes it is the story of where that object was found or purchased or handed down from. Sometimes it is the more involved back story of its concept or creation. The objects I design and make are intended to have long lives and hopefully be part of the legacy of our time for future generations to appreciate. Regardless if I am making a one-off for a gallery installation or designing for production, I want my work to resonate with good aesthetic value and often with imbued meaning and references similar to how a painting can carry similar reference points.

Talk to us a little bit about your vision as you started to c