Tell someone you’re going to hang out with Andrew Berg and they’ll immediately freak out. “No, Berg, not Bird," you’ll say next. “Oh," they’ll respond. Little do they know that Andrew Berg is worth freaking out about. A modern renaissance man, Berg is a designer, wood worker, frame master, musician, artist and liberally bearded San Franciscan. Here, we explore his thoughts behind creating one of his most beautiful creations, the Andrew Berg Lamp. Modernistic and archaic at the same time, the understated Andrew Berg Lamp would fit just as easily in an Apple showroom as it would in a 1960s schoolhouse—and be a standout piece in both. Coated in brazen functionality, men and women alike will fall in love with the clean lines, bare wood, and thoughtful artistry of these classic lamps.
What made you decide to create a lamp?
It was a Christmas gift. I had just built this very large frame out of what was basically walnut 2x4. I had originally planned on making a sculpture out of the rest. I started cutting the scraps up to find a good proportion and I began to imagine joining pieces together in what is basically my lamp's shape. That's when it occurred to me that it could be a lamp and I began looking for the parts that would best fit the sculptural quality of the wood block.
Who and/or what inspired the design of your lamp?
I was, at the time, becoming more and more interested in the Bauhaus, painters like Josef Albers and Frank Stella and sculptors like Donald Judd. I was very attracted to the subtle dynamics of their balanced aesthetic.
What goes into the creation of one lamp?
Well, I still make each one by hand. I try my best to use only cutoff from larger stock or shop scrap from other projects, though at the rate that I sell them, it is difficult to be strict about it. If I can't do that, I like to use urban salvage lumber which is the kind of trees that are milled at the woodmill where my shop is. The bases are dimensioned, cut, routed out and drilled. The same for the bottom plate. I have jigs that I made for each operation. Then I have developed a method of sanding the blocks to make them as square and sharp as possible. The sanding actually takes the most labor time and is a major reason that I only produce about 10 a month. Then I apply an oil finish. I use a brand of completely non-toxic floor oil that I've come to really like. This oiling can take up to three days. Then I wax them and assemble the electrical components. They all have a serial number inside and I often write something inside them before closing them up.
You sell your lamps at one of the best shops in San Francisco, General Store. How did you go about getting your lamp in there? Do you sell anywhere else? Do you have plans to sell in more places?
I really like General Store and have become good friends with the owners Serena Mitnik-Miller and Mason St. Peter. A mutual friend of ours, Dina Pugh, told them about it and showed them a picture on the Internet. They contacted me about putting some on consignment and they have been a regular seller. I don't plan on selling them elsewhere for a few different reasons, not least of which is that I can't make very many of them and I consider the value in them to be that each is a handmade sculpture.
Are you currently designing or planning on designing more lamps or other furniture items?
I have a few design ideas, one of which is coming into reality very soon. I have been very busy making picture frames, which is the main focus of my business, Small Works. I just finished a very large frame for a Jay Nelson drawing that was purchased by the Berkeley Art Museum.
Can you tell us about other projects you are working on?
I actually just got back this morning from Los Angeles where I built out the new General Store in Venice. In the next couple of months I will be framing an upcoming show at Kadist Gallery in San Francisco, building a "parklet" for Outerlands, a restaurant in the Sunset District of San Francisco, and designing and building market boxes for Tartine bakery's new location at Bar Tartine.