Joshua White
Luke White for The Wall Street Journal
WHO: Alison Berger, a designer and master glassblower with an extensive line of handmade furnishings that evoke early 20th-century industrialism. She learned glassblowing at the age of 16 after stumbling upon a workshop in her native Dallas. After an apprenticeship with Dale Chihuly and a stint in Frank Gehry’s office practicing architecture, she opened Alison Berger Glassworks in Los Angeles, in 1994.
WHAT: The Counterweight Chandelier, part of Ms. Berger’s 2014 collection of lighting for chic Chicago-based retailer Holly Hunt. The custom-made, sculptural assembly uses pulleys to suspend an intricate system of handblown crystal light pendants balanced by crystal-and-bronze weights. Pull on the weights to raise or lower the pendants and adjust the height at which the light shines.
HOW: To make the crystal pendant shades, Ms. Berger begins by melting a powder—her own secret silica-based recipe—inside a 2,500-degree furnace over the course of a day or two. Then she dips a 5-foot steel pipe in the molten glass and carefully blows air through the pipe until a glass glob inflates. While she and her assistants spin and reheat the vessel so it stays malleable, they shape it into a perfect cylinder using paddles, tongs-like tools called jacks, and their hands, pressing on the hot surface with newspapers. Once it hardens, she grinds and polishes the glass but leaves minor imperfections such as air bubbles and markings. “When glass is too perfect it can look like plastic,” she said. The weights and wheels used on the pulleys, meanwhile, are solid-cast crystal. Once she has all the glass components ready, she strings them up on the pulleys, inserting little bronze discs (each hand-milled in advance) into the glass weights until the balance is just right.
WHY: “I’ve long been fascinated with the bronze instruments that 16th-century scientists made to calculate the ephemeral,” said Ms. Berger. The chandelier takes inspiration, in part, from Galileo’s pendulum studies that she came across at the Museo Galileo in Florence, Italy, decades ago.
WHERE: The designs are conceived in the loft of a 1920s Spanish-style building in West Hollywood. But to produce the delicate glass pieces, Ms. Berger, with the help of a small team, uses a 3,000-square-foot facility in downtown L.A. “My studio is like a lab, where we’re constantly experimenting with prototypes,” she said. Counterweight Chandelier, from $39,000,