shining a new light
March 4, 2017 / Written by Stacy Kendall / Portrait by Andrew Vanasse
Good design knows no age, and neither, apparently, does 90-year- old lighting and furniture designer Harry Weitzer, who just rebooted his career, and his Portland-based company, in March 2017 after 23 years of retirement. Weitzer ran a thriving company from the 1960s through the ’90s that created custom wooden furniture for major office and civic building projects; he outfitted the entire 27-story headquarters of Sunoco (then called the Sun Company) as well as many big East Coast libraries and universities. In 1994, Weitzer shuttered his 100-person firm. “I decided then that I would not do anything else for money—just for family and friends,” he recalls of his decision to keep producing on his own terms.
Ninety-year-old lighting designer Harry Weitzer exudes energy and enthusiasm, especially when he's working in his shop. His new collection includes pendants and table lamps, featuring ziggurat-shaped pendants made of pliable aspen wood.
That could have been the whole story of Weitzer’s design career, but in late 2016, after encouragement from his youngest daughter, Julia Pfeifer, he’s back in business. Together they launched Wood Lighting Design in March 2017; Weitzer helms the design and production, crafting each light from scratch in his home studio, and Pfeifer runs operations and marketing. Their first pieces include paper-thin aspen wood and sanded acrylic combined in ziggurat-shaped shades for table lamps and a hanging pendant fixture, as well as a simple curved sconce. “My lamps don’t hide their construction. It’s part of their decoration,”explains Weitzer, who favors aspen for its translucency, low cost, workability, and longevity (it keeps its straw color even as it ages). The designer, who’s always prototyping—next in the works is a floor lamp—describes future pieces as “a moving target,” but he’s sure about one thing: “Retirement has been one of the most creative periods of my life.”
A version of this story appeared in GRAY issue no. 33