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SJ Lights

Samantha Jacober goes on long wood-gathering missions to find the perfect natural formations for her supernatural light fixtures. Each piece beams soft, dramatic light from carefully curated ebbs and ridges. The interior designer and expert woodworker let us in on her creative process.

You were involved in interior design and then decided to create your own fixtures. Tell us more about that transition and what inspired you to get started.

I was doing all kinds of design work, production, interior, and editorial. I was always using natural materials and objects in my designs. But I remember the specific piece of wood that inspired me to make the wood lights.

What happened?

I was styling an editorial for friends in Idyllwild, CA. We were wandering around through the woods looking for the perfect places to shoot and I found this amazing, very large piece of wood. I loved it so much that I dragged it home. It sat in my house for about a year before I decided to turned it into a light. It was the first piece I sold.

Why does nature inspire you? Has the natural world been a big part of your life?

I take inspiration and encouragement from nature's flexibility. If something comes up against it, nature finds another way.

Tell us how you create the fixtures, from how you select certain pieces, to sandblasting, to those insanely beautiful metallic coatings.

First, I go sit in the woods. After I've sat for a while, I start looking for interesting, inherent wood forms. Then I sand blast and treat the wood, photograph, and create and architectural model of each piece. This helps me decide what hardware I'll use and how it will hang or sit. Sometimes I'll add a metallic coat to part of the wood piece.

What do you like about the metallic accent?

Well, I've always loved seeing the natural and the manipulated right up against each other. Recently, I've been 3d-scanning original pieces and printing them out, then finishing them off with a metallic coat. I'm working on a show right now in which I remake an original piece over and over again with different materials and techniques, like the goldberg variations in wood sculpture. I also make little battery-powered LED night lights. I mount wood, a honeycomb or a piece of the sea on a sanded and oiled wooded block, like a natural history museum display.

What do you love about California?

The landscape and the people.

You mentioned you often have a deliberate angle in mind or position in mind for your lights, but it's always interesting to see how your customers position your pieces. Tell us more about that hand-off process.

They're a bit like clouds. Each person sees a different shape or creature in each piece. I can suggest a way to see it, but ultimately the customer sees what he or she sees. I like this Kalu Rinpoche quote, in particular: "If a hundred people sleep and dream, each of them will experience a different world in his dream."

You're an actress and an artist. Do those two mindsets play into each other at all?

I spent a lot of time in my twenties waiting around: for auditions, to hear if I got the job, and then on set. And although I love acting, the waiting didn't suit me. So I started working in design and then ultimately making the lights. I still act and love it when I do, but now instead of waiting for jobs, the ones I'm really right for come to me. I'm also developing a TY show with my friend Jillian Leigh that's going to be awesome. Ultimately, I have to be making, whatever it is: lights or acting.