Industrial Influence

Jonathan Browning Studio Lighting

Jonathan Browning Studios  “Ventoux” double armed sconce

Jonathan Browning is the designer and master craftsman of the eponymous Jonathan Browning Studios in San Francisco.  His work is intellectually backed with extensive knowedge about the history of design, and he shares that knowledge through visual references in each of his pieces.  As a metal worker, he’s been on a decades long journey honing his technical skills.  Every piece in his collection of light fixtures is sublime in the understated way only a real master of his craft can achieve.

I wanted to understand his inspirations, so I paid a call on him to chat.   Browning told me that his work is inspired in large part by the Industrial Design and Decorative Arts of the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s in France.  Seeing as the Exposition Internationale des Arts et Industriels Moderne (credited as the birthplace of Art Deco) happened in Paris, 1925., I asked him if Art Deco serves as his springboard.  He told me that while there was a plethora of gorgeous work produced by designers credited with Art Deco, he finds the work a bit dramatic and precious.  You’ll find no Aztec or Egyptian motif in repetition here.  His work is decorative yet sparse, seeking to achieve visual harmony through nothing more than the good proportions of it’s industrial elements.  He gave me a thumb-nail sketch of the architectural achievements in design that marvel him and inspire his work…

Maison de Verre, Paris Pierre Chareau, Bernard Bijvoet, and Louis Dalbet

Les Halles, Paris: Victor Baltard  (the first iron and glass structure ever built)

Karlsplatz Metro, Vienna: Otto Wagner

and anything by either Claude Nicolas Ledoux or Stanford White

Now armed with an understanding of what invigorates Browning visually, take a look through the vast collection(s) in the 2012 catalog.  What you’re likely to discover looking at his pieces is the incredible razor edged precision that his work possesses.  He employs “investment casting”, one of the worlds oldest metal forming techniques using wax to form the patterns for each piece.  The process is labor intensive, and time-consuming.  The product is remarkably near perfect in multiple replication and produces museum quality work.  You’re also likely to be amazed by how prolific he has been (considering the company was only founded in 2004).  It’s hard to choose a favorite, but the “Ventoux” double armed sconce wins for today… although while writing this post I’ve changed my mind several times.  Take your time looking at all the pieces on his incredibly vivid website – I’ve never seen better visuals on the net – then share them with a client.  These pieces will sell themselves.


Jonathan Browning Studios    30 Sheridan Street     San Francisco, CA  94103     415.401.9999