In the Studio with John Procario

February 02, 2024
2019 03 28 WorkshopAPD 0107
DDP 1120

Growing up in Cold Spring, NY, artist John Procario explored many mediums: drawing, painting, music, and building countless treehouses. But when he took his first woodworking class in college, he quickly determined that this was what he would spend the rest of his life doing. The son of a carpenter, John had more than sufficient experience with wood, but it was this course that opened his eyes to the  material ‘s potential. “I realized I could actually study this academically; I could continue to learn and improve and master woodworking,” John said. “That’s what I’m going to commit my life to.” 

Creative by nature, John always felt like he had to be constantly making – his preferred form of communication. Aside from the nostalgia of his childhood carpentry projects, wood, he says, has this nice, friendly, kind quality that makes it ideal for sculpture.  It conveys a certain warmth, a form of sharing ideas that is infused with life and an inherent uniqueness. “You find a piece, and it’s not like any piece anywhere,” the artist said. “Each piece has a different degree of flexibility, too. It’s communicating with you as you bend and manipulate it.” 

As seen in the “Freeform” series, John twists thin strips of wood into mesmerizing light fixtures, inlaid with LEDs and covered with a thin, gauzy fabric. The shape of each fixture gives the appearance of a line in perpetual motion, which is a direct result of the careful manipulation of materials: “when you make a bend, the resistance moves somewhere else, creating that elastic curve. They seem to accelerate in some places, conveying not only shape and form but also energy.” 

GCD McKendree 11

Each piece typically starts inside the artist’s mind: tracing different lines in his head, or waving his finger through the air in swirling formations until something clicks. “I play with the push and pull of proximity and spacing,” he said. When the wood is twisted more tightly, there’s a palpable tension in the piece; when the loops open wider, there’s a sense of ease and room to breathe. 

Each piece is technically rather minimal – one lead wire, occasionally two, connect the light strip to the power source. But John carefully considers the spread of the light and the way it diffuses through the fabric. And lately, he’s been experimenting with other materials as well. “Anything that light shines through in an interesting way,” like paper and natural fibers (and other “top secret” materials), can soften the LEDs and create a different look.   

And though each work requires a high degree of care and planning, John also invites a bit of error into the process. Along with his small but highly skilled team of fabricators, John has developed completely original techniques – ones that don’t square with any standard, formal training. “To make something that almost feels wild,” he says, “you have to follow how you feel.” 

Intuition and feeling have proven powerful guides to John throughout his career. Though it’s difficult to pinpoint specific sources of inspiration, he looks to nature as a place that informs many ideas. John goes through life like a sponge, absorbing things into his subconscious, until eventually something new comes out. Lately, he’s been incorporating nature in a more literal sense, using grasses and leaves in his work by harnessing certain qualities of them like texture and color.  

John collaborates most commonly with designers, creating bespoke pieces for clients with specific requests through his representatives at Todd Merrill Studio NYC. Based solely on an image of a space and few breadcrumbs of information, he crafts incredible custom fixtures that draw attention skyward. 

Workshop/APD keeps coming back to these designs because they harmonize with our crafted modern ethos. Using simple materials in complex ways, engaging the senses and the mind, John Procario’s “Freeform” light fixtures have become like a staple in living spaces of all kinds.