May 2010

True to Form David Wiseman

  • David Wiseman
  • David Wiseman’s chandelier incorporates bronze branches and porcelain blossoms.
  • The artist’s handcrafted objects and installations in bronze, 
porcelain and crystal pay homage to the fragile beauty of nature.

Young L.A. designers are transforming the landscape of contemporary furniture and lighting with artistry, imagination—and plenty of attitude
by GREGORY CERIO / portraits by ERIC OGDEN / produced by MAYER RUS

The Naturalist

Closing time at the flagship Dior boutique in Shanghai, and in comes the night shift: security guards, cleaners, stockists—and a 28-year-old graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design named David Wiseman. He is there to grow flowers. Or, more precisely, to make them.

In the past few years, Wiseman has won a strong following for his lyrical, exactingly crafted decorative and functional objects in forms drawn largely from nature: bronze twig- or branch-shape table pieces and lighting fixtures with porcelain blossoms; metal, crystal and porcelain Collage chandeliers that resemble pomegranates, magnolia flowers and birds; and ovoid hand-ground bronze vases conveying the delicacy of an ostrich egg.

“David relishes the process of making like no other designer I’ve encountered. He employs time-consuming processes that allow him to truly know each material he uses,” says Evan Snyderman, of the design gallery R 20th Century, which represents Wiseman on the East Coast. (In L.A., his work can be seen at Hallworth on La Brea.)

Wiseman says his work has always been about “investigating ways of bringing nature indoors.” It was eight years ago that he hit upon a method to achieve his goal: “I remember the rush I got when I made my first casting of a tree trunk in a basement studio at RISD.” Another turning point came in 2006, when Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum gave Wiseman a National Design Triennial honor for a ceiling installation of intertwining plaster branches adorned with porcelain cherry blossoms.

His current commission for Dior in China is an installation that incorporates 500 porcelain lily-of-the-valley blossoms—a motif commonly used by the fashion house—that will cover parts of the ceiling and cascade down walls. “I love working on such a scale, because it allows for a process of discovery and interaction with the work when viewers enter and roam around the room,” he says. “The only challenge is the immense amount of work involved to create a seamless architectural sculpture.”

You get the impression that Wiseman is eager to finish this Sistine Chapel–esque assignment and get back to his L.A. studio. Not only does he miss the local Mexican and Armenian food, he misses the weather. “Nothing beats grinding some metal outside in the open air and sunlight,” he says. And for an artist who uses nature as a source of inspiration, there’s a lot to go around in California.