One word stands out in luxury lifestyle today: ’bespoke’; few UHNW clients are prepared to accept off-the-shelf clothing or accessories for the home; this explains the boom in handcrafted footwear, artisan skincare and unique pieces of art. Essentially, the creator can name their own price due to the high quality of materials used, plus the time and care dedicated to the process of producing investment-quality pieces. If the objet has an interesting provenance or back story, then that makes it all the more attractive… meet lighting artist Matthew Johnson, founder of Erleuchten Lamps, from the west coast of the USA. Now a creator of lighting that combines the esoteric with raw and rare materials sourced directly from nature, Matthew grew up as an artist, founded two companies in San Francisco, sold both, left the city rat-race for the wilds of Oregon and reverted to his first love of art, to which he now dedicates his life…

The work of lighting artist Matthew Johnson appears in the one-off art book entitled ’Strive For Perfection: The Official Platinum Jubilee Edition’ and he is exhibiting his work in London at the St. James’s House Rolls-Royce Platinum Jubilee launch event on Friday, October 7th 2022”

Nicky Summer, publisher, City & Beach Lifestyle

Born and raised in Northern California, Matthew Johnson, founder of Erleuchten Lamps, grew up in a home supplied more with art supplies, art books, and encyclopedia than toys; he therefore spent his days educating himself on history, the world, nature, and art – the love of art being a love that led him to art classes as soon as he could hold a crayon. Early years were spent drawing – mostly with charcoal – that quickly moved into more advanced pointillism; this continued into Matthew’s late teens when he took an apprenticeship from a German artist who taught him how to create three-dimensional stained-glass pieces lit from the inside: Lamps.

I never stopped following the art and design world; living in San Francisco one is surrounded by art, creativity, innovation so, although I not was active in the community, I was still being influenced and immersed in art…“

Matthew Johnson, Erleuchten Lamps

NS: ’Matthew, your lighting is entirely unique; what’s the back story to your artistic career?”

MJ: ”A few years after moving to San Francisco the internet began to blow up – and out of interest in continuing my education and experience in the art and design world – I moved into the digital landscape, seeing what I could do in graphic and web design. At this point, in my early twenties, I already felt like I’d lived several lifetimes while creating and exploring art, so I instead put art on hold and I got into business. I did still dabble in design work but mostly focused on building experience in the business world. I launched my first company, an Organic Produce home delivery company in the San Francisco Bay Area and, after selling that, I went on to travel in South East Asia, Canada, Mexico, and the United States eventually landing in Arizona where I started my second company. After selling my second company I moved to Lake Tahoe, California, spending my time between Tahoe and San Francisco consulting for Fortune companies in business and technology. I stopped business consultancy when I met my wife and we moved to the mountains of southern Oregon…”

Once I decided to get out of the business and technology consulting world, I began looking for cracks in the art and design world where I could make a difference and offer the world something innovative, interesting, and will last generations. Being light sensitive since birth, ambient lighting was always a preference over bright overhead lighting. I knew I wanted to do something with using lite; I also knew I wanted to work with materials as close to their original source possible…”

Matthew Johnson, Erleuchten Lamps

ABOVE: San Francisco (left); Applegate River, Oregon (right)

Selling two companies and after years of consulting, it was time to move back into art; my mind, body, and soul needed a change. While I’d reached a pinnacle in business, my life was missing something massive – nothing I was doing was based on creativity and I needed to get back to being creative…“

Matthew Johnson, Erleuchten Lamps

NS: ”I find that travel helps with the creative process and I’m sure your explorations must have contributed to the success of your work – a peaceful working environment is also incredibly important; where do you work from now?”

MJ: ”We based ourselves in southern Oregon so as to be close to family and at that stage I moved on to my career with ’Erleuchten’ – lighting grown from the Earth and made for the luxury market. Our property is positioned on the Applegate River, where we built a new home with serenity in mind… I work from a shop built into our home and it’s the perfect place. I get to spend my time in the wild – on the river – away from the pollutants of the city, giving me the opportunity to focus solely on my art…”

For here am I

Sitting in a tin can

Far above the world

Planet Earth is blue

And there’s nothing I can do…”

David Bowie, Space Oddity

NS: ”What was the inspiration behind creating these unique collectors pieces?”

MJ: “I figured out what medium I wanted to use and I began my new journey into the world of art and design; I knew I could upscale, elevate, and innovate what people have been doing for thousands of years: create lighting using gourds. The gourds I use are spherical, thick shelled, hard wood, and hard to find; the base of each lamp is hand-forged out of metal. The ‘end cap’ (above right) is carved burl harvested from a maple tree close to our home in the Southern Oregon mountains. A myriad of master skills is needed in each lamp creation with most of the materials used in each lamp literally being grown from the earth before it reaches my work bench.

How lighting moves a room is very important to each piece; light shines through translucent paper-thin parts of the design in the gourds where I’ve planed the wood down to create a calming amber colour; ‘holes’ are then carved out to produce a pattern, some quite intense, others more subtle. Each lamp takes one year to make – as an example of time commitment, ‘Home’, a lamp that is a globe of our earth (below), I spent three months painting using toothpicks… the continents and oceans, cold and warm currents, are modelled after satellite images. I spent four weeks with a brush painting the continents and couldn’t get the texture I wanted until I used a toothpick mixing acrylic paint and had a ‘eureka’ moment…”

ON INSPIRATION: Over the years, I purchased lighting made by an artist who punched holes in old coffee cans, then bent the cans before adding wax and a wick…I also had memories of being a boy loving the animated shadows that night lights cast on the walls, a play of light and shadow. Over the years, I also fondly remember laying under a tree, wind blowing, sunlight casting playful shadows and light on my face and all around me…“

Matthew Johnson, Erleuchten Lamps

Though I’m past one hundred thousand miles

I’m feeling very still

And I think my spaceship knows which way to go

Tell my wife I love her very much, she knows…”

David Bowie, Space Oddity

NS: ”Finally, what is the intrinsic message of your art to the world at large?”

MJ: “On this new journey, I decided from the first lamp that my art would tell an overarching story with each piece creating a timeline of our past history, our today and our future. The first piece ‘Tani’ is named after my wife and inspired by the creation of the universe; each subsequent piece continues our journey through space and time while touching on the subjects of nature, geo-politics, culture, relationships, senses, and most of all: Love.”


*MEET MATTHEW JOHNSON: Matthew is showing his work in London at the St. James’s House Rolls-Royce Platinum Jubilee launch event on October 7th; later that evening he’ll be attending the London Press Club Ball. The remainder of the week Matthew is holding private viewings at the homes and offices of potential collectors in London and around the country.

Comments are closed.