Danish designer Poul Henningsen was obsessed with light. Inspired by the soft glow of pre-electric lighting, he devoted his life to designing electric lamps that would capture that glow. Electricity, he said, gave humans the possibility of “wallowing in light,” and yet there was the danger of losing the harmony of what once had been.
For a decade, he experimented in his attic. At last, he unveiled the first of what would become known as PH lamps. He used layered shades to disperse light while concealing its source, the electric bulb. To tilt the light toward the red end of the spectrum, he colored the inside of one shade.
I’m struck by how much Henningsen’s work mirrors our process as writers. The spark of any piece is a warm, original glow we hope not to lose in the harsh light that will inevitably fall over our work. Crafting involves dispersing, diffusing, maintaining the harmony. Beneath the layers, our sources are sensed but not seen directly. Coloring beneath can tilt our work the direction it’s meant to go, an effect that pleases the reader.
As winter fades, we turn our attentions to the sun, a light too great to emulate. But no matter the season, shading, harmony, and diffusion enhance our lesser lights. Our words cast a pleasant glow, a pool of light where readers long to linger.
And so, to the light.
Co-founder of 49 Writers and founder of the author co-op Running Fox Books, Deb Vanasse is the author of seventeen books. Among her most recent are the novel Cold Spell and a biography, Wealth Woman: Kate Carmack and the Klondike Race for Gold. She also works as a freelance editor.