In early 2020, Craig Richard bought Old California Lighting from his father, who is company founder Tom Richard. Weeks later, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Business could have taken a disastrous turn. Instead, “I found myself completely overwhelmed with orders,” says Craig, who formerly managed day-to-day operations for OCL. “Broke every record in the book.”
Old California offers an impressive lineup of period-inspired light fixtures, particularly those in the Arts & Crafts and Greene & Greene genres. From art glass to filigree overlays and proprietary patinas, OCL’s fixtures are not only beautiful, but also the product of progressive innovation and skilled hand work.
The brass for fixtures is bent and shaped by craftspeople using computerized brake presses. Filigree overlays in more than 60 patterns are cut on a sophisticated water-jet cutter. Handwork comes into play when art glass or mica is cut and especially when one of seven patinated finishes is applied. Requiring a combination of artistic ability and knowledge of chemistry, patination is one of the most difficult skills to learn here. It takes seven to 10 steps between prep work and application to get just the right tone and coloration.
Custom fixtures, including those the company makes for such clients as the 1913 Omni Grove Park Inn and, most recently, Brett Waterman’s “Restored” TV series on the DIY channel, require even more hand work. For example, the art glass in most fixtures in the collection are single pieces of glass that slip into the fixture’s metal housing. A custom light may require hand-cutting many individual pieces of glass, then putting them together with leaded came.
The use of high-tech wizardry helps keep production costs down on the more standard fixtures, but it also frees up possibilities that didn’t exist before, such as scaling a filigree pattern to a custom size. “That is probably one of the most fun elements of the job,” Craig Richard says. “What is the next piece of tech that can liberate you more?”