tag archives: design san francisco

alison berger has been described as:

‘an artist whose medium is light and whose material is glass.’

she is an artist.  and, a craftsman.  she studied glassblowing at the rhode island school of design (RISD), where she apprenticed with dale chihuly.  chihuly’s work in blown glass is considered fine art.

dale chihuly | dusky sky chandelier

chihuly | halcyon gallery | 5 dec 2011-21 apr 2012 | london, united kingdom

photo credit halcyon gallery

click here to read my previous post about dale chihuly.

at RISD, she also apprenticed with chihuly protigee, james carpenter.  now, carpenter develops glass and material technologies to explore light as an architectural medium.

 james carpenter design associates (jcda) | podium light wall | 7 world trade center | new york, NY

photo credit jcda

alison berger is also an architect.  she earned a BFA in architecture from RISD.  and, an MFA in architecture from columbia university.  she practiced architecture with bausman-gill in new york.  and then, with frank o. gehry in los angeles.

frank o. gehry | preliminary sketches | panama puente de vida museo | panama city, panama

frank o. gehry | panama puente de vida museo | panama city, panama | opening 22 may 2014

photo credits (c) frank o. gehry and victoria murillo

she is also a designer.  she designs lighting,


alison berger | pistil pendant light

alison berger | crystal sphere pendant light

photo credits holly hunt and plug lighting

and objects.

alison berger for hermes | the balance line tabletop collection

photo credit alison berger

site specific installations or commissions,


alison berger | installation | crystal vessels in large glass cages | comme des garcons store | tokyo, japan

alison berger | commission | rain chandelier | dining room | actor jennifer aniston’s home | beverly hills, CA

photo credits alison berger and alison berger

and now, furniture.

alison berger | tables of the trade | sculptor’s pedestal table

photo credit alison berger

i had the pleasure of attending spirits in glass, a private reception and presentation by alison berger, hosted by the kneedler|fauchere showroom during design san francisco 2014.  her presentation was energetic and funny.  she grew up in dallas, studied and worked in new york, and lives in los angeles.  no wonder:

‘her manner combines the expansive friendliness of a native texan,

the energy and intellectual intensity of an erstwhile new yorker,

and the mellow openness of [an] angeleno…’

 -joyce lovelace | american craft magazine | february/march 2009

her style is simple and refined, just like her work.  as an architect, she considered every building as a vessel for light.  as an artist, she considers the structure of every vessel.  her defined creative process is curatorial, artistic, and architectural.  she researches.  she sketches, draws, and paints.  she makes collages.


alison berger | form study 2

alison berger | bell tower chandelier

photo credits holly hunt | alison berger book-volume 2 and alison berger

she drafts plans, sections, and elevations.  and, she builds models.



alison berger | section | lantern pendant light

alison berger | lantern pendant light

photo credits david lauridsen

i start with a planned section and an elevation.  but, soon the molten glass takes over…’

-alison berger

berger began working full time as a glass artist in 1995.  she works from her design studio in west hollywood, CA.

alison berger in her light filled design studio | west hollywood, CA

photo credit dave lauridsen

and, from her workshop in compton, CA.

alison berger in her workshop with master gaffer, jesus garcia | compton CA

photo credit holly hunt | alison berger book-volume 1

each piece of glass is hand blown, annealed, and then hand finished by berger’s production team, using hand tools and traditional glass blowing techniques.  the process is time consuming, and physical.  each piece is blown from 12-15 pounds of unleaded crystal, which is finer than glass because it contains fewer chemical impurities.  manipulating the copper/sand/silver ratio in the crystal adds a yellow glow, which adds depth, reflective, and timeless qualities.

‘i love it when people don’t know whether my pieces are old or new.’

-alison berger

many of her pieces contain veiled historical references.  her pieces can be inspired by art, antiquities, scientific documents and instruments, or even, flea market finds.

curiosity cabinet | alison berger’s studio | west hollywood, CA

photo credit joshua white

during the creative process, she alters the scale and removes the decoration, which reduces an inspirational object to it’s essence.

‘i like my forms to be so simple they knock people off their feet.’

-alison berger

and then, she reinterprets the object in glass, a material that contains fire and light.

‘glass captures the process of remembering.  and, as the light fades, forgetting.

light is the medium, glass is the material and memory,

elusive as it is, [that] is my theme.’

-alison berger

crystal water bottles.  inspired by alchemy and baroque still life paintings.

willem claesz | still life with a gilt cup | 1635 | rijksmuseum | amsterdam, netherlands

alison berger for blackman cruz | crystal water bottles

photo credits rijksmuseum and david lauridsen

the roman ring floor lamp.  inspired by a roman cup.

inscribed cup | mold blown glass | roman | ad 1-50 | the getty villa | malibu, CA

alison berger | roman ring floor lamp

photo credits the j. paul getty museum and holly hunt

the word pendant light.  inspired by leonardo da vinci’s scientific and theoretical texts.


leonardo da vinci | study of the effect of light on a profile head | galleria degli uffuzi | florence, italy

alison berger | word pendant

photo credits leonardoda-vinci.org and holly hunt

the lens sconce and lens chandelier.  inspired by a 19th century earring, found at a flea market.

19th century earring, found at a flea market

alison berger | lens sconce

alison berger | lens chandelier

photo credits alison berger, holly hunt, and holly hunt

she recently launched a furniture collection called tables of the trade.  the collection currently includes a carpenter’s bench, a jeweler’s table, a writer’s console, a sculptor’s table, and a painter’s table.  the design for the painter’s table was inspired by a photograph of the studio of italian still life artist, giorgio morandi (1890-1964).  the drafting table in morandi’s studio is covered with butcher paper.  berger abstracted the circular tracing patterns, worn into the paper, and then carved the abstract patterns into the top of the painter’s table.


giorgio morandi’s art studio | casa di morandi | bologna, italy

detail | butcher paper on the drafting table in giorgio morandi’s art studio | casa di morandi | bologna, italy

alison berger | painter’s table

photo credits artstudioshare.blogspot.com, holly hunt|tables of the trade brochure, and holly hunt|tables of the trade brochure

the next piece in the tables of the trade collection will be an astronomer’s table.  the bronze table will have a map of the constellations carved into the top.  but, instead of referencing historical documents, the map is imaginary.

other new products, planned to launch during 2014, include:

the cage pendant light.  inspired by an antique surveyor’s cage.  with an open weave basket form.

the time chandelier.  inspired by the passage of time and clock mechanisms.  with gears, weights, and counter weights, candles, and electrified pendants.

the bow chandelier.  based on a bowstring.  with flattened pendants, suspended from an expandable system of interlocking arcs.

the moon pendant light.  inspired by the phases of the moon.  with moon flask shaped pendants, which look full from the front and back, but thin from the sides.

‘the power of lighting is staggering.’

-alison berger

wallcovering, textile, and product designer lori weitzner, one of the keynote speakers at design san francisco 2013, creates products that challenge your perceptions.  all are hand crafted by skilled international artisans.  many are made from natural or sustainable materials.  but, the most innovative are made from uncommon materials.

have you ever seen wallpaper made from recycled newspaper?

hot off the press | whp140/01 | made from 70% post consumer recycled newspaper and 30% salago fiber with a fr finish | hand made in india

or, handwoven strips of newspaper?

newsworthy | wne113/01 | made from 70% post consumer recycled newspaper and  30% nylon, paper backed with a light water repellent finish | hand woven in india

or, maps?

around the world | W1011/01 | 70% post consumer recycled paper maps and 30% nylon, paper backed with a light water repellent finish | hand woven in india

or, cinema posters?
cinema posters | wcp128/01 | 70% post consumer recycled paper cinema posters and 30% nylon, paper backed with a light water repellent finish | hand woven in india

photo credits weitzner limited

aren’t weitzner’s upcycled wall coverings innovative?

newsworthy wallpaper | bedroom | new york, NY | interior design by shawn henderson

photo credit william waldron

click here to read more about upcycling

john dickinson (1920-1982)

‘one of the most acclaimed designers of the 20th century returns.’

with a limited edition furniture collection produced by sutherland,

and introduced at the shears & window showroom during design san francisco 2012.

the john dickinson collection

designed by john dickinson | produced by sutherland | represented by shears & window

photo credit lisa walsh | innerspace

‘dickinson’s designs demonstrate his ability to both startle and amuse the viewer in a constant pursuit of originality.’

darrin alfred, curatorial associate of architecture and design, san francisco museum of modern art (SFMOMA)

sutherland’s advertising campaign to launch the john dickinson collection could only be described as original.  the campaign featured the etruscan, hoofed, and footed tables galloping across the homepage of the sutherland website.

the etruscan, hoofed, and footed tables

designed by john dickinson | produced by sutherland

photo credits sutherland

sutherland acquired the rights to produce the limited edition collection from the original molds and dickinson’s original furniture.  the collection, which currently contains twelve pieces, will be stamped with the sutherland logo to avoid confusion with dickinson’s original furniture.  originally, dickinson produced the furniture from white plaster of paris, reinforced with metal rods.  but, sutherland is reproducing the dickinson collection from glass fiber reinforced concrete, which can be used in either interior or exterior installations.  david sutherland’s texas showrooms previously represented john dickinson’s furniture.  when dickinson died in 1982, he and sutherland were already collaborating on producing the plaster furniture in a more durable material.

the large six legged african, small african or medium african, and rope tie tables

designed by john dickinson | produced by sutherland

photo credits sutherland

the tree stump pedestal, twig mirror, and twig lamp

designed by john dickinson | produced by sutherland

photo credits sutherland

the footed and dome lamps

designed by john dickinson | produced by sutherland

photo credits sutherland

the pieces he [dickinson] designed that are considered ‘iconic’ are those that were made in large numbers:  a tin-skirted table, or an african-inspired three-legged stool.’

louis bofferding, new york antiques dealer

so iconic, that whenever they become available, dickinson originals sell for high prices in vintage furniture galleries or at auction.

john dickinson | galvanized tin and brass side table | model 107 | 1970’s

US$32000 | paul marra design | los angeles, CA

photo credit 1st dibs

john dickinson | galvanized tin and brass console table | model 57 | 1970’s

sold for US$60000 | bonham’s new york | sale 15282 lot 2210 | 18 june 2007

photo credit artnet

john dickinson galvanized tin and brass console table in interior designer steven volpe’s san francisco, CA loft

photo credit william abranowicz

john dickinson | african side table | painted plaster | 1970’s

sold for US$30000 | christie’s new york | sale 2492 lot 306 | 17 december 2011

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace and christie’s

john dickinson | pair of african tables | painted plaster | circa 1975

sold for US$20000 | sotheby’s new york | sale NO8680 lot 144 | 16 december 2010

photo credit sotheby’s

african side table in the living room of john dickinson’s legendary san francisco, CA converted firehouse

photo credit fred lyon for house & garden magazine | 1972

then, of course, there’s the infamous million dollar decorators episode where san francisco interior designer suzanne tucker purchases a john dickinson african table from epoca at the san francisco fall antiques show, and then graciously allows los angeles interior designer jeffrey alan marks, who wants the table for his own home, to purchase it instead.  but, sometimes even experienced interior designers make mistakes.  the US$16785 table is really an end table not [a] coffee table, so it was too small.

maybe the large six legged african table from sutherland’s john dickinson collection would be a better size.  dickinson used the six legged african table in his own home, but never offered it for sale.


african side table

designed by john dickinson | produced by sutherland

small 17″ diameter x 20″ high  | medium 22.5″ diameter x 26″ high

6 legged african

large six legged african table

designed by john dickinson | produced by sutherland

36″ diameter x 19″ high

photo credit innerspace | lisa walsh

many design insiders today still consider john dickinson the most innovative and original american interior and furniture designer of the 20th-century.’

diane dorrans saeks, author

yet, he is not as well known as some of the other top california decorators from the 1960’s or 1970’s, such as michael taylor or tony duquette.  but, like taylor or duquette, some of the furniture that dickinson designed then is still being produced now.

etruscan side chairs

designed by john dickinson | produced by randolph & hein

photo credit randolph & hein
some of the furniture that dickinson designed during the 1970’s for randolph & hein or macy*s is in the permanent collection of the SFMOMA, which owns 250 pieces of dickinson furniture.  the SFMOMA exhibited a retrospective of dickinson’s work in 2003-2004.  some of dickinson’s designs, such as the 25 piece bone furniture collection that he designed for macy*s in the late 1970’s, were too avant garde to be commercially successful.

bone floor lamp | 1978

bone cigarette table | 1977

bone table lamp | 1977

designed by john dickinson for macy*s | SFMOMA | san francisco, CA

photos credits SFMOMA
yet, even dickinson’s less successful designs could be considered influential.  could dickinson’s bone furniture collection have inspired the honeycomb mirror, introduced by ironies at the kneedler|fauchere showroom during design san francisco 2012?

honeycomb mirror | cast resin

designed and produced by ironies | represented by kneedler|fauchere

photo credits innerspace | lisa walsh