The Shape of Light

We asked Modernmaine’s Julie Morringello about bending unexpected materials into vessels for illumination.

Julie Morringello, Modernmaine
Morringello in her Deer Isle workshop.
As told to Tina Fischer
Photographs by Michael D. Wilson

Julie Morringello with Modern Maine Lamps[cs_drop_cap letter=”B” color=”#000000″ size=”5em” ]efore I started creating lighting in 2011, I built furniture for private commissions and gallery sales. I’m drawn to lighting for the same reasons I’m drawn to furniture — a fascination with the built world and our physical relationship to the things with which we surround ourselves.

I love working with all kinds of materials, natural or human-made. Light can really accentuate a material’s inherent, sensual beauty. My latest work explores the use of translucent plywood, which is remarkably flexible and can be folded like paper. A fabricator digitally cuts and prints on the plywood for me, to my specifications. Then I hand-assemble those components to create my fixtures, a process that involves folding, sometimes stitching, multiple glue-ups, sanding, and finally, wiring.

I moved to Maine after meeting my husband at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. He’s a painter and a sculptor who has a house in Stonington; Deer Isle has been my home since 2000. Living on an island gives me the sense of living just outside mainstream culture, with the freedom to think and create without undue amounts of distraction — well, except during the summer months, which are full-on crazy!

ModernMaine Lamp
Modern Maine Lamp
ModernMaine Lamp
Julie Morringello working on lamp

Clockwise from top left: Descending Dots, a light totem created for a craft show; the multiplaned Woodhedron; cutting maple veneer; and the Persimmon shade.

I currently work in two studios. One is my woodshop, in a barn adjacent to our home. The other is just down the street and serves as a dust-free assembly room and my showroom. My customers are largely people who are renovating or building a home in Maine and who are passionate about supporting Maine artists. I’m honored to have my work in their homes.

Find her in The Darkness and the Light, an invitational exhibition at Maine College of Art’s Institute of Contemporary Art, in Portland, July 12­–Sept. 20.