David D’Imperio’s Light Sculptures: Illuminating Works of Art

6 Oct

Meet David D’Imperio at the Washington Craft Show, Nov. 19-21 at the Washington Convention Center.

David D’Imperio was born in Pennsylvania in 1960. He spent many teenage summers exploring the coral reefs in the waters off the Florida Keys. His fascination with sea life and organic form has greatly influenced his work. He moved to Miami after earning his degree, and there his interest in marine science led to a patent in 1984 for an aquarium system. It was that product line that introduced him to low-voltage lighting technology.  Recently he has concentrated on the development of lightweight suspended aluminum designs.

Abacus Table Light – A halogen light source is suspended within a matrix of etched and anodized aluminum reflectors.

Copper and stainless steel details.  30” H X 6” W X 4” D.  $400.00

Orchis Chandelier – Metallic lacquer on turned wood, stainless steel structure. Six MR 11 bulbs, polycarbonate shades.

40” H X 18” W X 18” D. $3500.00

Pantodon Table Light – Hand carved wood body, stainless steel, two adjustable arms, polycarbonate shades.

30” H X 30” W X 5.75” D: $950.00

The David D’Imperio lighting studio is located in a historic 1880s post office building in Stony Run, Pennsylvania. Today it incorporates a design studio, metal shop, wood shop, finishing room, and photo studio. It’s an environment for merging traditional craftsmanship with industrial technology. There the designer produces his lighting collection and limited edition designs using a wide range of techniques from hand turned and lacquered wood forms to CNC machined components. Each signed piece is hand finished and assembled.

Lights designed by David D’Imperio are functional sculptures. They are a combination of new technology and old fashioned hand craftsmanship. The designer explores each idea through drawings, then models. The simple lines of the design are composed of hundreds of parts that have been cut, carved polished lacquered, turned, formed or engraved. Electricity then adds the final touch and magic. His current collection uses wood, metal, plastics and glass components.


When he began the design of the Helikon suspension light, David D’Imperio wanted to create a solid architectural light fixture that would appear to float in space. “I didn’t want a translucent structure, but one that would reflect ambient light in a beautiful way.”  The lighting designer decided his new creation needed to be capable of emitting bright light using either conventional sources or LEDs (or both).  “I wanted something large, linear and modular that could be made to different lengths. But I didn’t want it to look modular; I wanted it to have a natural randomness -asymmetrical with a different left and right side.”

Helikon Suspension Light – Handcrafted, engraved and anodized suspended light with low voltage or LED bulbs.

96” H X 7” W X 7” D. $5200.00

Weight was also a consideration, and the light needed to be well balanced so it could be easily suspended.  “If it was 6 or 8 feet long,” says D’Imperio, “it had to knock down for shipping via UPS and yet be simple to assemble on site.”  That was a lot to ask, but D’Imperio was up to the challenge.

“Aesthetically, I was interested in tessellations and the structure of crystals,” recalls D’Imperio. “I arrived at a form I liked by folding pieces of metallic paper. To meet the practical and technical requirements I decided to separate the exterior from the interior.” This approach differed from how he had designed previous lights, which were an elegant merger of inner function with outer form, creating one unified structure.

The Helikon solution, he says, “was to design a very light symmetrical inner frame that was modular and could support an apparently asymmetrical set of exterior reflectors, with a focus on ease of assembly.”  To make it simple to assemble on site, the reflective panels are each engraved A, B, C, D and E. They interlock and are hung on the inner frame without using tools. The frame sections are joined to create different lengths with the exterior panel set repeating as necessary. Assembly proceeds from left to right for each side so it looks random and asymmetrical, but it isn’t, says D’Imperio. “It’s perfectly balanced and simple to assemble and ship– even a 10 foot light.”


The anodized (silver or gold) panels are each engraved with their own unique linear textures so that each facet reflects the ambient light differently. The internal light source is uniform and illuminates the surface below evenly.

The Helikon’s suspended length is easily adjusted from cables on either end. The electrical wires are neatly concealed in telescoping stainless steel conduit and remain parallel. Only one power source is needed in the ceiling for its low-voltage transformer. The power source does not need to be centered, but can be located anywhere along the length of the fixture which makes for a flexible installation.

David D’Imperio will be at the Washington Craft Show, Nov. 19-21, 2010 at the Washington Convention Center.

Photo credits: Caren Dissinger Photography

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